Former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates was in contact just before the 2016 election with a man he knew to be a former Russian spy, according to a document filed by special counsel Robert Mueller’s office on Tuesday.
The revelation comes in a sentencing memorandum filed against Alex van der Zwaan, a London-based lawyer who pleaded guilty in February to lying to Mueller’s investigators about his contacts with Gates and the ex-spy.
According to the memo, Gates told van der Zwaan that he was aware that one of their associates was a former Russian intelligence office with the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence outfit. The ex-GRU agent, identified as Person A, maintained contacts with Russian intelligence at the time of his interactions with Gates, according to the filing. (RELATED: Mueller Charges Lawyer With Lying About Contacts With Former Trump Campaign Adviser)
“Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agents assisting the Special Counsel’s Office assess that Person A has ties to a Russian intelligence service and had such ties in 2016. During his first interview with the Special Counsel’s Office, van der Zwaan admitted that he knew of that connection, stating that Gates told him Person A was a former Russian Intelligence Officer with the GRU,” reads the filing from Mueller.
The filing also states that Gates and Person A — who has yet to be identified — were “directly communicating” in September and October 2016.
Mueller’s team has yet to produce evidence that van der Zwaan, Gates, or Gates’ business partner, Paul Manafort, were involved in a scheme to influence the 2016 presidential election. Instead, Mueller has indicted Gates and Manafort on charges related to their consulting work for former Ukrainian prime minister Viktor Yanukovych.
Van der Zwaan, 33, worked for Manafort and Gates while with the international law firm Skadden Arps.
Manafort’s firm was paid millions of dollars to rehabilitate Yanukovych’s image in Ukraine. As part of that effort, Manafort and Gates hired Skadden to produce a report that justified the imprisonment of Yulia Tymoshenko, a political opponent of Yanukovych’s.
Gates has recently started cooperating with Mueller’s team. Manafort is still fighting the charges.
Van der Zwaan admitted in February that he lied to Mueller’s investigators during a November interview. He initially denied having contact in September 2016 with Gates and Person A. But he acknowledged in a court filing of his own on Tuesday that he actually recorded conversations with both men. He said that Person A made him aware that charges could be forthcoming against them in Ukraine over their report on Tymoshenko. Van der Zwaan, who was fired by Skadden Arps in November, also said that he recorded a conversation he had with a partner at the law firm regarding his conversation with Person A.
Van der Zwaan, who pleaded for no jail time, said that he lied about the conversations because he did not want to admit that he recorded Gates, Person A and the Skadden Arps partner.
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