A London-based lawyer who worked with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort on behalf of the Ukrainian government has been charged by special counsel Robert Mueller with making false statements to federal authorities.
Alex Van Der Zwaan lied about his interactions with Rick Gates, a former Trump campaign adviser and business partner of Manafort’s, according to papers filed Tuesday in federal court.
Van Der Zwaan, a former associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, also deleted and failed to produce emails he exchanged with an unnamed law firm in September 2016, according to a document submitted by Justice Department lawyer Andrew Weissmann.
Mueller’s team obtained emails from Skadden as part of its wide-ranging investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
There is no indication that the charges against Van Der Zwaan have anything to do with the Trump campaign or the investigation of possible collusion between campaign officials and the Russian government.
Manafort was with the Trump campaign for five months in 2016, three of them as campaign manager from June to August.
Mueller previously indicted both Manafort and Gates in connection with financial offenses related to their Ukraine work.
Van Der Zwaan was part of the Skadden team hired by Manafort in 2012 to produce a report justifying the prosecution of Yulia Tymoshenko, the main political rival of Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s prime minister at the time.
Skadden’s lead attorney on the project was Greg Craig, former White House counsel to President Barack Obama.
Clifford Sloan, a former special envoy to Guantanamo during the Obama administration, also helped with the report, which asserted that the prosecution of Tymoshenko was not politically motivated.
Manafort worked as a consultant at the time for Yanukovych, who had close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The longtime operative’s job was to burnish the politician’s international image.
Skadden has been under some scrutiny over its work for Ukraine.
Tymoshenko filed a complaint in 2013 with then-U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder over payments to Skadden for the report justifying her imprisonment.
Yanukovych was forced to resign as prime minister the next year during the Euromaidan revolution, and Tymoshenko was released from jail shortly afterward.
Skadden was paid only $12,000 during its work on the Tymoshenko report. But after the report was released in 2014, the Ukrainian government paid the firm $1 million.
Skadden issued a $567,000 refund in June 2017 to the Ukrainian government after an investigation revealed that former Justice Minister Oleksandr Lavrynovych embezzled $1.1 million to hire the firm.
According to the complaint against Van Der Zwaan, the lawyer falsely told investigators that his last communication with Gates was in mid-August 2016 and consisted of “an innocuous text message.” But according to the court filing, Van Der Zwaan and Gates spoke the next month.
Gates reportedly plans to accept a plea deal from Mueller. Manafort has pleaded not guilty.
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