A London-based lawyer who worked with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort on behalf of the Ukrainian government has been charged by special counsel Robert Mueller with making false statements to federal authorities.
Alex Van Der Zwaan, a former associate at the law firm Skadden Arps, lied about his interactions with Rick Gates, a former Trump campaign adviser and business partner of Manafort’s, according to papers filed in federal court last Friday.
Van Der Zwaan, who left Skadden Arps last year, also deleted and failed to produce emails he exchanged with an unnamed law firm in September 2016.
Mueller’s team obtained emails from Skadden Arps as part of its wide-ranging investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
There is no indication that the charges against Van Der Zwaan have anything to do with the Trump campaign or the investigation into possible collusion between campaign officials and the Russian government.
Mueller has indicted both Manafort and Gates, though for financial crimes related to their Ukraine work.
Van Der Zwaan was part of the Skadden Arps team hired by Manafort in 2012 to produce a report justifying the prosecution of Yulia Tymoshenko, the main political rival of Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s prime minister at the time.
Skadden Arps’ lead attorney on the project was Greg Craig, the former White House counsel to President Obama. Clifford Sloan, a former special envoy to Guantanamo during the Obama administration, also helped with the report, which asserted that the prosecution of Tymoshenko was not politically motivated.
Manafort worked as a consultant at the time for Yanukovych, who had close ties to Vladimir Putin. The longtime operative’s job was to burnish the politician’s international image.
Skadden Arps has been under some scrutiny over its work for Ukraine.
Tymoshenko filed a complaint in 2013 with the then-U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder over the payments to Skadden Arps for the report justifying her imprisonment.
Yanukovych was forced to resign as prime minister the next year during the Euromaidan revolution, and Tymoshenko was released from jail shortly after.
Skadden Arps was paid a scant $12,000 during its work on the Tymoshenko report. But after the report was released in 2014, the Ukrainian government paid the firm $1 million. Skadden Arps issued a $567,000 refund in Jun 2017 to the Ukrainian government after an investigation revealed that former Justice Minister Oleksandr Lavrynovych embezzled $1.1 million to hire the firm.
According to the complaint against Van Der Zwaan, the lawyer falsely told investigators that his last communication with Gates was in mid-Aug. 2016 and consisted of “an innocuous text message.” But according to the court filing, Van Der Zwaan and Gates spoke the next month.
Gates is reportedly planning to accept a plea deal from Mueller. Manafort has pleaded not guilty.
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