Former Skadden Associate Pleads Guilty in Mueller Probe

Robert Mueller
Robert Mueller. AP
Author

21 February, 2018

Prosecutors investigating possible collusion between the Trump election campaign and the Kremlin scored another victory on Tuesday after a lawyer who worked with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort in Ukraine was charged with lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Van Der Zwaan was interviewed by Mueller's team regarding his firm's work in 2012 with the Ukraine Ministry of Justice.

Van der Zwaan, whose father-in-law German Khan was named in the Steele dossier, pleaded guilty to lying about the last time he'd spoken with Rick Gates, a former Trump campaign associate and longtime Manafort lieutenant, and a second, unnamed person.

Former Ukrainian prime minister and Yulia Tymoshenko delivers a speech during a convention in Kiev on March 29, 2014.

According to an information sheet released by the Special Counsel's office Tuesday, Van Der Zwaan told the Federal Bureau of Investigation that his last communication with Gates was in August of 2016 and that his last communication with the unnamed person, identified as "Person A", was in 2014.

Van der Zwaan was questioned by investigators on November 3, 2017, about conversations he had with Gates and a "person A" in the fall of 2016.

Mueller is also examining whether Trump sought to obstruct his investigation.

The charges against Van der Zwaan may have resulted from Gates' reported decision to cooperate with Mueller's investigation. She is a political foe of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, whose political party was a client of Gates and Manafort. He is expected to plead guilty.

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Ukraine's investigators have alleged that Yanukovych's government evaded Ukrainian publiccontracting rules by only paying Skadden $12,000 for the report-just below the threshold that would require a public bidding process-and then paying the firm $1.1 million a year later, with Skadden apparently having done no more work for Ukraine.

Skadden Arps said in a statement Tuesday that the firm terminated van der Zwaan's employment past year and is cooperating with authorities. Trump backed down when the White House Counsel, Donald McGahn, refused to convey the order to deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein.

Van Der Zwaan deleted and failed to produce emails sought by the special counsel and a law firm, prosecutors said. According to reporting by the New York Times, Manafort had arranged for Skadden to write the report in an effort to counter allegations that Yanukovych's government prosecuted Tymoshenko for political reasons.

The report's credibility has been attacked by former United States ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst, who told the New York Times (paywall) the report was "a nasty piece of work" and that Skadden "should have been ashamed of it".

Gates, a former Trump campaign aide, was indicted on charges of conspiracy to launder money and acting as an unregistered foreign agent.

Skadden produced a report in 2012 that displayed a defiant view of the prosecution and conviction of Tymoshenko.

Manafort, a longtime associate of Gates, was indicted himself on similar charges previous year.

And court records filed on February 16 show a California man had pleaded guilty to identity fraud in connection with a so-called Russian "troll factory" that created fictitious accounts on Facebook and other social media in what US authorities call an effort to sow discord in American politics. He told investigators that his last contact with Gates was an innocuous text message in mid-August 2016, when they actually spoke the following month about the Tymoshenko report in a call the lawyer secretly recorded, the information says.


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