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February 20, 2018

Special counsel Mueller subjects yet another low-level, non-violent offender to federal sentencing

The slightly cheeky title for this post is my gut reaction to the latest news emerging from the latest work by federal prosecutors working with special counsel Robert Mueller.  This BuzzFeed News piece, headlined "The Special Counsel's Office Has Charged A Lawyer Working For The Ukrainian Government With Lying To The FBI," reports the following (with links from original):

The special counsel's office has charged a lawyer who did work for the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice with lying to the FBI, according to court filings unsealed on Tuesday.

Alex van der Zwaan, an attorney, is accused of lying to investigators about his interactions with Rick Gates — the former Donald Trump campaign official and longtime associate of Paul Manafort who is also facing criminal charges in the special counsel's investigation — and an unidentified individual referred to in charging papers as "Person A."

Van der Zwaan is due in court on Tuesday afternoon for a plea hearing.  He is expected to plead guilty.

According to the criminal information filed by special counsel Robert Mueller's office, which is dated Feb. 16, investigators asked van der Zwaan in November about his work in 2012 for the Ukraine Ministry of Justice preparing a report on the trial on Yulia Tymoshenko, the former Ukrainian prime minister.

Van der Zwaan is accused of falsely telling investigators that his last communication with Gates was an "innocuous text message" in mid-August 2016, when he had spoken with Gates in September 2016 about the Tymoshenko report.

Prosecutors alleged that van der Zwaan falsely said that his last communication with Person A was a conversation in 2014 when they "discussed Person A's family," when he spoke with Person A in September 2016 about the Tymoshenko report.

Van der Zwaan is also accused of deleting and failing to produce emails to the special counsel's office and a law firm referred to as "Law Firm A," including email between him and Person A in September 2016.

Van der Zwaan's case is the sixth criminal matter made public by the special counsel's office. Prosecutors on Friday announced that a federal grand jury had indicted the Russian-based Internet Research Agency (IRA), two other Russian entities, and 13 Russian individuals, accusing them of interfering with the 2016 election. The special counsel's office also unsealed a criminal case against a California man who pleaded guilty to identity fraud.

The criminal information unsealed on Tuesday does not specify what law firm van der Zwaan worked for when he prepared the Tymoshenko report, but earlier news articles identified an Alex van der Zwaan as being part of a team from the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom that prepared a report about Tymoshenko for the Ministry of Justice in 2012.  Skadden released a statement Tuesday morning saying that the "firm terminated its employment of Alex van der Zwaan in 2017 and has been cooperating with authorities in connection with this matter."

Van der Zwaan's firm biography is no longer on Skadden's website, but the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine archived a version of it. The page stated that he served "as rule-of-law consultant to the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine" and wrote "a report on due process issues associated with a high-profile prosecution."

Van der Zwaan did not have a lawyer listed on the public court docket. Van der Zwaan is the son-in-law of German Khan, a Russian bank owner who is suing BuzzFeed News over the publication of an unverified dossier of information concerning President Donald Trump.

February 20, 2018 at 10:45 AM | Permalink


starting to resemble Watergate, where the indictments flowed like a mighty stream.

Posted by: Anon 13 | Feb 20, 2018 11:15:25 AM

The "perjury trap" concern - to toss one concern raised at times -- is not without merit as a general matter but a basic part of criminal justice is sanctity of investigations, courts and so forth. So, when people lie to investigators [especially someone like an attorney who has a special duty as well as more than a layperson's understanding of the law], it often is not some trivial matter. The same applies when someone interferes with a court order in some fashion, including refusing to follow its terms.

Merely citing something as "non-violent" or "low-level" doesn't tell me enough. If someone punches someone else in the nose in a bar fight, it is a violent act. It very well might be a felony. But, it very well might not be as important about lying to investigators, especially in a major investigation. If someone lies, e.g., during a rape investigation, making it harder to find the truth, using such terminology can be misleading.

Posted by: Joe | Feb 20, 2018 11:31:44 AM

Spot on Joe.

Posted by: federalist | Feb 20, 2018 11:43:48 AM

The problem here is that ALL of these indictments have nothing to do with the supposed purpose of the investigation. All the alleged behavior happened before Trump hired Manafort and there is no evidence that Trump knew of this behavior when he hired Manafort. So what does this have to do with Russia and Trump? Guilt by association. Slander.

Posted by: Daniel | Feb 20, 2018 11:45:12 AM

It's unseasonably warm outside but cold in hell.

Posted by: Joe | Feb 20, 2018 11:48:57 AM

Daniel, be patient. Consider that Van Der Zwaan is the son in law of Russian oligarch and billionaire German Khan!!! This is huge. It opens up the Russian connection with Manafort; and Manafort leads to Mr. Big Boy himself.

Posted by: Sam the prosecutor | Feb 20, 2018 2:08:45 PM

Sam the prosecutor > It also smacks as a desperate attempt by Mueller tp protect his flanks against discovery around the Steele dossier's creation, utilization, and veracity!

Posted by: JB | Feb 20, 2018 4:43:43 PM

Actually Daniel, the charges against Van Der Zwaan are based on his lying after charges were filed against Manafort and Gates regarding contacts that he ahd with Gates in September 2016 while Gates was still working on the Trump campaign.

Posted by: tmm | Feb 21, 2018 11:07:40 AM

JB, The dossier’s main finding, that Russia tried to prop up Trump over Clinton, was confirmed by the U.S. intelligence community.

Posted by: Sam the prosecutor | Feb 21, 2018 2:48:40 PM

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