Russian meddling investigator files charges against lawyer for lying

A former lawyer for a major USA law firm pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court in Washington D.C., to lying to federal authorities in a case that is part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's wide-ranging Russian Federation probe.

Van Der Zwaan, a London-based lawyer with the global law firm Skadden Arps, was also accused of lying about his contacts with another unnamed person, the charges said.

According to court documents filed in Washington, Van der Zwaan failed to produce a 2014 email exchange with an unidentified person - referred to as Person A - to the special counsel investigating the Trump campaign and its ties to Russian Federation.

The case is being overseen by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is also overseeing Mueller's cases against former Trump campaign aides Paul Manafort and Rick Gates. 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.

Per the court filing, van der Zwaan made false statements about his last communication with Gates, which the document says took place in mid-August 2016 and consisted of an "innocuous text message". Van der Zwaan is the son-in-law of Ukrainian-Russian billionaire German Khan. They also say Van der Zwaan deleted emails sought by the special counsel's office, including one between him and Person A from September 2016.

Van der Zwaan is accused of misleading investigators about the last time he talked with Gates when he was questioned November 3 by USA authorities regarding the work. He enlisted the firm in his effort to shield a client, Viktor Yanukovych, the Russia-aligned president of Ukraine, from global condemnation.

Gates and Manafort, according to Ukraine government records, earned millions of dollars in their work for Yanukovych that was not reported.

Prosecutors accuse Van Der Zwaan, an associate in the London firm of Skaaden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, of lying to federal agents about his last contacts with Gates in August 2016 and failing to turn over email communications to federal investigators.

It is unclear what role van der Zwaan played in crafting the report.

Van der Zwaan arrives at Federal Court on February 20. Former Obama White House counsel Greg Craig and fellow ex-Obama official Clifford Sloan were also linked to the report.

The report was authored by the law firm, Skadden, Arps.

The Nov. 3, 2017, questioning of van der Zwaan occurred just days after Manafort's indictment and, according to court papers, while prosecutors still were investigating potential violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

He had given a public relations firm a copy of the report before its public release, and handed Gates talking points about the report that would help the Ukrainian clients, against the direction of a more senior lawyer at the Skadden law firm, according to court documents and prosecutors' descriptions in court.

As Quartz has reported in a previous investigation, elites from the former Soviet Union have been known to make use of Western law firms, PR companies, and corporate intelligence firms to lobby on their behalf, produce documents whitewashing them, and investigate their enemies.

The Justice Department asked Skadden for information and documents related to its work for the Yanukovych government, the New York Times reported in September. After Yanukovych narrowly defeated Tymoshenko in the 2010 presidential election, she was jailed on charges of corruption that were seen by many as being politically motivated. The lobbying effort was part of political consulting work that Manafort and Gates carried out before they joined the Trump campaign.

He is the 19th person to be charged by special counsel Robert Mueller. Manafort referred the center, a nonprofit group based in Brussels that had done work with Yanukovych, to the other two Washington-based firms.

On the same day, 13 employees of a Russian troll factory, Internet Research Agency, and three other Russian entities were charged with interfering in the election.