Alex Van Der Zwaan - a Ukraine-connected attorney with ties to former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates - has pleaded guilty to a charge of making false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, special counsel Robert Mueller's office announced Tuesday.
The office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller disclosed the accusations against attorney Alex Van Der Zwann on Tuesday, with the expectation that Van Der Zwann would plead guilty later in the day in a Washington court.
Prosecutors charged Alex van der Zwaan with making false statements to federal agents on Friday. It stems from a part of the special counsel's investigation into Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign chair, and Rick Gates, a former campaign aide and longtime business associate of Manafort.
He lied when he said his last communication with Rick Gates was in August 2016, according to the government, when in fact in September 2016 "he spoke with both [Manafort deputy Rick] Gates and Person A" about a report and 'surreptitiously recorded the calls'.
Van der Zwaan is accused of lying during an interview with prosecutors and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents on November 3, 2017, about the timing of his last communication with Gates and an unidentified person described as "Person A".
According to the criminal information filed by special counsel Robert Mueller's office, which is dated February 16, investigators asked van der Zwaan in November about his work in 2012 for the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice preparing a report on the trial of Yulia Tymoshenko, the former Ukrainian prime minister.
Skadden was roped into the controversy when it emerged that the former Ukrainian Justice Minister Oleksandr Lavrynovych embezzled over $1 million to pay the law firm, which had been hired by Ukraine's president at the time, Viktor Yanukovych.
After being pressured by American and Ukrainian prosecutors, Skadden refunded about half the amount it was paid to the Ukrainian government. That work became a matter of interest for Mueller's team, the New York Timesreported, due to their interest in studying Manafort's work for Yanukovych and for Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs.
Both Gates and Manafort were indicted past year on charges of conspiracy to launder money and acting as unregistered foreign agents. The two also failed to disclose lobbying work on behalf of then-Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych and then tried to hide that work as it came to light in August 2016, the USA said.
The charge against van der Zwaan does not involve election meddling or the Trump campaign's operations.
Yanukovych, a pro-Russian strongman from Ukraine's Party of Regions, hired Skadden to justify the proceedings against Tymoshenko - who was his political opponent - to the USA government.
The charge against Zwaan and reports that Gates may plead guilty suggest "that Mueller is putting even more pressure against Manafort, which is interesting because Manafort is already buried in an indictment with very serious charges", Mariotti said.
In a report a year ago, The Kyiv Post described Zwaan as "the Russian-speaking son-in-law of Russian oligarch German Khan". At the time, Gates was working with the Trump campaign.
It is not known if Mr Gates' cooperation led to Mr Van Der Zwaan's indictment.
Yanukovych was ousted from the presidency in 2014 amid widespread protests against his Russia-friendly positions and his decision to back out of a deal that would have promoted closer ties between Ukraine and the West and distanced Ukraine from Russian Federation.
Manafort was also one of three top Trump campaign officials who attended a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with two Russian lobbyists who offered the campaign dirt on the Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
The White House has repeatedly rejected allegations of wrongdoing.
Manafort and Gates are accused of directing a covert Washington lobbying campaign on behalf of pro-Russian Ukrainian interests. Manafort is accused of laundering money to buy houses, cars, clothes and landscaping services. Both men have pleaded not guilty. "Prosecutors typically very methodically start with low level offenders and try to work their way up the chain", said Barbara McQuade, a former US attorney for the Eastern District of MI.
The Tymoshenko report was cited in the 12-count indictment against Manafort and Gates.
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