National Security

Lawyer gets jail time in first sentence of Mueller probe

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A federal judge on Tuesday sentenced Dutch lawyer Alex van der Zwaan to 30 days in prison for lying to federal investigators in the first criminal sentence to result from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Van der Zwaan, who was also ordered to pay $20,000 in fines, pleaded guilty in late February to making “materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements and representations” to the special counsel’s office and FBI agents. 

According to the indictment, van der Zwaan lied about his contacts with Trump campaign official Richard Gates and a Ukraine-based business associate of both Gates and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. He then tried to cover his tracks by deleting emails that the special counsel’s office had requested. 

Press reports have identified the businessman as Konstantin Kilimnik, a former Russian intelligence officer and a longtime associate of Gates and Manafort.

The London-based lawyer has no known ties to the Trump campaign, but in a court filing last week, prosecutors allege that van der Zwaan and Gates knowingly had discussions with Kilimnik during the final months of the election. Prosecutors said the communication “was pertinent to the investigation.” 

Kilimnik has denied involvement with Russian intelligence.

In a court filing on Monday, prosecutor Andrew Weissman said van der Zwaan, the son-in-law of a Russian oligarch, is in “an unusual position of having information related” to the Russia probe that “is not widely known — including information that he knows first-hand due to his role in the conduct the Office is investigating.”

Several other Trump campaign associates have also pleaded guilty to various charges stemming from the special counsel investigation, including Gates, former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos and former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn. They are all cooperating with prosecutors. 

None of the charges so far directly relate to the issue of whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow. But according to a heavily redacted court filing released late Monday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein gave Mueller the green light to investigate allegations that Manafort colluded with Russia to swing the election. 

Manafort has been indicted on numerous charges of fraud and money laundering and pleaded not guilty to all of them. He has not been indicted on any charges related to election interference.

The charges against van der Zwaan centered on work he did at the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom on a 2012 report about the trial of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

According to Mueller’s team, van der Zwaan worked closely with Manafort and Gates on the report, which defended the handling of Tymoshenko’s trial by the Russia-aligned government of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. The State Department criticized the report as a deceptive assessment of the Yanukovych government’s conduct and Mueller’s team has accused Manafort and Gates of funneling $4 million to secretly pay for it. 

Skadden, a powerful New York law firm, has said it fired van der Zwaan last year and is cooperating with the investigation.  

Van der Zwaan’s precise value to the Mueller investigation remains unclear.

But Weissman in his Monday filing asked Judge Amy Berman Jackson to limit public access to his case records, arguing that “requests filed by someone with non-public information could, themselves, suggest to third parties investigative facts that are otherwise not widely known.”

Tags George Papadopoulos Paul Manafort Robert Mueller Robert Mueller investigation Rod Rosenstein Russia Special counsel Trump campaign Ukraine

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