Justice official authorized Mueller to investigate whether Manafort colluded with Russian Federation

Saul Bowman
April 4, 2018

A Dutch attorney who lied to federal agents investigating former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was sentenced Tuesday to 30 days in prison in the first punishment handed down in special counsel's Russian Federation investigation.

Alex van der Zwaan, 33, a son-in-law of a prominent Russian-based banker, pleaded guilty February 20 to lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about his contacts in September and October of 2016 with a business associate of onetime Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and with Manafort's deputy, former Trump aide Rick Gates.

Van der Zwaan faced a recommended sentence ranging from zero to six months in prison and asked for no prison time for one count of lying to investigators, a felony.

The description of "Person A" in court records matches Konstantin Kilimnik, who worked for Manafort's consulting firm in Ukraine.

Mueller's team revealed the existence of the August 2, 2017, memo in filings seeking to counter arguments by Manafort's attorneys that the special counsel probe has exceeded its legal authority. This, according to the indictment, was a lie - van der Zwaan was actually secretly communicating with Gates and Person A about the Skadden report. Former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos were both also charged with lying to investigators, and pleaded guilty.

Mueller indicted van der Zwaan for making false statements of FBI investigators. But it has revealed new details about the government's case against Manafort and opened a window into the intersecting universes of worldwide law, foreign consulting work and politics. "Because investigation of those matters was authorized, so was prosecution".

In the filing, Mueller's prosecutors sought to refute arguments by Manafort's lawyers that they went beyond the original appointment authority outlined in the special counsel regulations.

The Aug. 2 memo surfaced Monday night in a court filing by prosecutors to combat Manafort's legal team's assertion that the case should be thrown out because Mueller overextended his authority, CNN reports. According to the indictment, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents personally questioned van der Zwaan in November 2017 about his communications with Gates and an unidentified Person A.

It's unclear when the next person charged in the Mueller probe might face sentencing, but the fact that van der Zwaan got jail time suggests they are likely to face stiff penalties. Van Der Zwaan "demonstrated a moral compass that was off-kilter".

According to court documents, Van der Zwaan "wilfully and knowingly" made false statements to investigators while answering questions about a report prepared in 2012 by his former law firm for the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice on the trial of Yulia Tymoshenko.

Trump has called Mueller's investigation a witch hunt and has denied collusion with Moscow.

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