An attorney hired by Paul Manafort pleaded guilty Tuesday to lying to federal investigators regarding the last time he spoke with former Trump campaign associate Rick Gates. The office of Robert Mueller, the special counsel, announced indictments against both Gates and Manafort last year.
On Friday, the same day that Mueller’s office indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies for interfering in the 2016 presidential election, Alex Van Der Zwaan was criminally charged with lying to federal investigators. A former associate in the London office of the New York-based law firm, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, Van Der Zwaan was hired by Manafort years ago to draft a report justifying the incarceration of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s political rival, Yulia Tymoshenko.
According to the criminal charges against Van Der Zwaan, he “deleted and did not otherwise produce emails sought by the Special Counsel’s Office.” He was accused of secretly recording a September 2016 call with an unidentified person and destroying a follow-up email that same month. Van Der Zwaan was also accused of lying to FBI and special counsel investigators about his last conversation with Gates, in mid-August 2016.
In October 2017, Gates and Manafort were indicted on 12 counts, including money laundering, acting as unregistered agents of the Ukrainian government, and tax fraud. With his recent guilty plea, Van Der Zwaan is expected to work with law enforcement officials against his former associates.
Last year, Van Der Zwaan married the daughter of a Ukrainian-Russian energy oligarch, German Khan, who Forbes ranks 138th on its list of billionaires, with a net worth of $9.3 billion. Khan is suing BuzzFeed and the private investigation firm Fusion GPS over BuzzFeed’s publication of Christopher Steele’s notorious dossier, which contains a mix of accurate, inaccurate, and unverified claims linking President Donald Trump to Russia. The dossier notes that Khan is a principal owner of Alfa Bank, which allegedly has close ties to Vladimir Putin and assisted Russia’s 2016 election influence scheme against the U.S.
A few hours before Van Der Zwaan’s guilty plea on Tuesday, Rep. Ted Lieu of California tweeted, “Expected guilty plea by Alex Van Der Zwaan tells us at least 3 things:
- Mueller knows a lot that we don’t know
- Mueller will indict for lying to @FBI (should scare any Trump official who was interviewed)
- Basically locks in that Gates will plea, which pressures Manafort to flip”