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Mueller charges lawyer with lying about interaction with Rick Gates

A police car is parked outside Jackson Township Middle School Tuesday Feb. 20 2018 in Massillon Ohio. A school official in Ohio says a middle school student apparently shot himself after bringing a gun to school. Police say Jackson Middle School near

Prosecutors investigating possible collusion between the Trump election campaign and the Kremlin scored another victory on Tuesday after a lawyer who worked with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort in Ukraine was charged with lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller disclosed the accusations against attorney Alex Van Der Zwann on Tuesday, with the expectation that Van Der Zwann would plead guilty later in the day in a Washington court.

The attorney, Alex van der Zwaan, the son-in-law of one of Russia's richest men, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., to a charge of lying to the Special Counsel's office.

The charging document also says he claimed that he exchanged an "innocuous text message" with Gates in mid-August 2016, and said falsely that was their last interaction.

Zwan, who worked in London for United States law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, had lied about his communications with Gates pertaining their work in and for Ukraine.

The guilty plea by Van Der Zwaan comes amid reports that Gates, a longtime associate of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, is nearing a plea deal with Mueller.

They discussed how a criminal complaint in Ukraine could implicate a former Ukrainian official, Skadden and Manafort himself.

Andrew Weissmann, a prosecutor with Mueller's office, told the court that Manafort and Gates funneled $4 million through offshore accounts to pay the law firm - which he did not identify by name - and Washington-based lobbying firms in connection with the report.

Around the time of the conversations van der Zwaan lied about, Manafort was in the spotlight for the work he and Gates did in Ukraine.

The charge against van der Zwaan does not involve election meddling or the Trump campaign's operations.

The report's credibility has been attacked by former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst, who told the New York Times (paywall) the report was "a nasty piece of work" and that Skadden "should have been ashamed of it".

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The charge against Zwaan and reports that Gates may plead guilty suggest "that Mueller is putting even more pressure against Manafort, which is interesting because Manafort is already buried in an indictment with very serious charges", Mariotti said.

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".

After the pro-Russian government was run out of town in 2014, the new authorities began investigating misuse of funds by the Yanukovych government.

Skadden has not answered questions about the payments it received for the Ukrainian work.

Manafort was involved in recruiting Skadden to prepare the report on behalf of Ukraine, according to documents reviewed by Bloomberg News.

In a report past year, The Kyiv Post described Zwaan as "the Russian-speaking son-in-law of Russian oligarch German Khan".

The White House has repeatedly rejected allegations of wrongdoing.

Mr Trump said the Russian indictments vindicate him as they show there was no collusion between Russians and his campaign. Craig and Sloan both declined to comment.

Manafort and Gates are accused of failing to register as agents in the US for political consulting they did in Ukraine for pro-Russian politicians.

Last week, Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities for conducting an illegal "information warfare" campaign to disrupt the 2016 USA election to help Trump win the White House. Manafort is accused of laundering money to buy houses, cars, clothes and landscaping services. They both pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Tymoshenko, the subject of the report, is one of the top political rivals of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, a Russian sympathizer who used Manafort and Gates as political consultants for more than a decade. "Prosecutors typically very methodically start with low level offenders and try to work their way up the chain", said Barbara McQuade, a former USA attorney for the Eastern District of MI.

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