Attorney Alex van der Zwaan was charged with making "materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements and representations" to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation in the 2016 presidential elections.
Mueller charges that Van Der Zwaan lied to FBI investigators about his communications with Richard Gates, a surrogate of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort who stands accused, along with Manafort, of conspiracy against the United States, fraud, and failure to register as a foreign agent.
An attorney whose firm was accused of whitewashing abuses by the former president of Ukraine in cooperation with Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to lying to the special counsel investigating Russian election interference.
Both Gates and Manafort were indicted by the special counsel in October. He was speaking with investigators about his work with global law firm Skadden Arps in 2012, when Manafort arranged for the firm to be hired by the Ukrainian Minister of Justice to prepare a report on the trial of Yulia Tymoshenko.
Mueller already has secured guilty pleas from former national security adviser Michael Flynn and one-time foreign affairs adviser George Papadopoulos for lying to investigators about their contacts with Russian Federation.
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. Van der Zwaan's now-defunct LinkedIn page lists him as an associate in the London office of the law firm. Trump is showing signs of frustration with the continued Russian Federation probe, blaming Democrats for shrugging off his prior claims that the USA election system was rigged only to point to Russian Federation influence. The criminal information filed against Van der Zwaan also alleged he lied about his last communications with Gates and the unnamed person.
Manafort was under investigation long before he joined the Trump campaign.
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Asked about the charge, White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah told Fox News that the development is unrelated to President Donald Trump's actions and "only reinforces our point when it comes to the special counsel's investigation ... there is no evidence of collusion because none existed".
In fact, they say he had discussed the Tymoshenko report with Gates and Person A in September 2016 during a phone call that he surreptitiously recorded.
Manafort, who was Trump's campaign manager for nearly five months in 2016, and Gates, who was deputy campaign manager, pleaded not guilty previous year to Mueller's charges. According to the indictment, Manafort and Gates "used one of their offshore accounts to funnel $4 million to pay secretly for the report".
Tuesday's indictment of Van Der Zwaan is the 14th indictment announced by Mueller's team in just the past four days.
Prosecutors also say that Van Der Zwaan lied about his talks with someone identified only as "Person A". He is also the son-in-law of German Khan, a Ukrainian-Russian billionaire businessman. The report was authored by Washington law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, known as Skadden Arps.
Mueller's investigation has long focused on Manafort, who was once described as an global "gun for hire" when it came to advancing Russian interests.
Manafort's relationship with Skadden dates to years before his work on the Trump campaign.