Mueller charges lawyer with lying in Russia probe

A man who communicated with former Trump campaign adviser Richard Gates has pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI in special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's probe into Russian election interference.

Attorney Alex Van Der Zwaan was charged with making “materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements and representations” to the special counsel’s office and FBI agents, according to a court filing released Tuesday morning.

He entered a guilty plea on Tuesday afternoon.

Van Der Zwaan allegedly lied about his last communications with Gates and then deleted emails requested by the special counsel’s office, according to the indictment.

He allegedly did so as part of his work for a firm hired by the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice to prepare a report on the trial of Yulia Tymoshenko, a former prime minister of Ukraine. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The new charges come as Gates is reportedly nearing a plea deal with Mueller that could lead to his testimony against Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortJudge rejects Manafort motion to suppress evidence seized from residence Mueller probing Roger Stone following Russian hacker indictment: report Judge rejects Manafort's bid to move trial further from DC MORE, President TrumpDonald John TrumpIran claims it rejected Trump meeting requests 8 times ESPY host jokes Putin was as happy after Trump summit as Ovechkin winning Stanley Cup Russian ambassador: Trump made ‘verbal agreements’ with Putin MORE's former campaign chairman.

Gates was Manafort's business partner. Mueller indicted Gates and Manafort together last year, accusing them of working together over the years to launder money, among other crimes. 

The pair had worked for lobbying clients overseas, including Viktor Yanukovych, a former president of Ukraine allied with Russia.

Van Der Zwaan is accused of making false statements to the FBI about a report that he helped the Ukraine's Justice Ministry prepare in 2012 on the trial of a Ukrainian politician named Yulia Tymoshenko.

The charges appear to be related to a report produced by the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom that helped the Ukrainian government counter international criticism that the 2011 prosecution and conviction of Tymoshenko had been driven by political aims. 

Van Der Zwaan was an associate in Skadden's London office, according to reports. The law firm told CNBC in a statement that it "terminated its employment of Alex van der Zwaan in 2017 and has been cooperating with authorities in connection with this matter." 

The New York Times reported last year that the law firm's report was arranged by Manafort as part of his work for Yanukovych.

According to the document released Tuesday, Van Der Zwaan lied when he told investigators that his last communication with Gates was in mid-August 2016, and that his last communication with an individual identified only as “Person A” was in 2014, at which point the two “discussed Person A’s family.”

The document states that Van Der Zwaan actually spoke with Gates and “Person A” regarding a report on the trial and “surreptitiously recorded the calls.” It also says that he deleted or did not produce emails to the special counsel’s office, including a September 2016 correspondence between him and “Person A.”

—Last updated at 4:26 p.m.