Alex Van Der Zwaan, who was sacked previous year by Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, a prominent NY law firm, admitted to lying to Mueller's investigators about his interaction with Rick Gates.
A former lawyer for a major USA law firm pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court in Washington D.C., to lying to federal authorities in a case that is part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's wide-ranging Russian Federation probe.
The indictment, unsealed in federal court in Washington on February 16, accuses Alex Van Der Zwaan with lying to investigators about work he performed for Skadden, Arps, Slate Meagher & Flom in 2012. That page has since been taken down. The three were allegedly in touch about a report on the controversial trial of former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Timoshenko.
Gates and Paul Manafort contracted Skadden in 2012 while working as spin doctors for then-Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych's government. The report was authored by top NY law firm Skadden Arps, where Van Der Zwaan worked at the time.
According to the federal court filing, Van Der Zwaan lied to Mueller's team about communications between himself, Manafort associate Rick Gates, an unnamed individual called "Person A" in documents, and also about why a specific email that turned up later hadn't been produced by Van Der Zwaan.
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Those of you following along at home will remember Russia's Alfa Bank popped up prominently in the Steele Dossier-and figured in news reports that the FBI was investigating unexplained connections between the Trump Organization and computer servers owned by the bank. Unlike a line pushed by the USA and European Union at the time, the report argued that Tymoshenko's trial was not politically motivated. Former Obama White House counsel Greg Craig and fellow ex-Obama official Clifford Sloan were also linked to the report.
It would also increase the pressure to cooperate on Manafort, who has pleaded not guilty to Mueller's indictment and is preparing for a trial on alleged financial crimes unrelated to the campaign.
The indictment against Van Der Zwaan, which name-drops Gates, may suggest that the reports are correct and the former Trump aide is cooperating with the special counsel.
Tymoshenko is a former Ukrainian prime minister who was tried and jailed for fraud in proceedings European governments labeled politically motivated. However, the DOJ admitted that there was no evidence that any member Trump campaign was involved in the alleged attempt. Manafort was forced to step down as Trump's campaign chairman in August 2016, but Gates stayed and worked on Trump's transition team.
Manafort maintains his innocence and has since filed a lawsuit challenging the special counsel's broad authority and accusing the Justice Department of breaking the law in appointing Mueller. The Ukrainian general prosecutor alleged that Yanukovych's government circumvented contracting rules by initially agreeing to pay Skadden a fee that was less than the threshold for competitive bidding - reportedly about $12,000 - then later paying the firm almost $1.1 million.
Around the time of the conversations van der Zwaan lied about, Manafort was in the spotlight for the work he and Gates did in Ukraine. He entered his guilty plea Tuesday afternoon. Ukrainian prosecutors confirmed that Skadden refunded $567,000 to Ukraine, saying it had been overpaid. Both deny the charges.
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