Collusion craze: Mueller memo says Trump aide contacted 'assessed' Russian spy

Aaron Bernstein  Reuters
President Donald Trump reportedly has tried to fire special counsel Robert Mueller in the past

Mueller contended that van der Zwaan, the son-in-law of Russian businessman German Khan, "had a series of calls with Gates and Person September and October 2016" about potential criminal charges relating to payments for a report on the trial of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

Van der Zwaan, the son-in-law of a Ukrainian-Russian oligarch, was sacked previous year from the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, according to the firm, after it says it learned of his alleged crime from the special counsel's team.

Attorney Alex Van Der Zwann was sacked by prominent NY law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP a year ago, and pleaded guilty as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election. They also say that "Person A" still had ties to Russian intelligence in 2016. Gates has already plead guilty and is working with the special counsel, while Manafort appears to maintain his innocence. However, the legal hot water he faces highlights how Mueller's prosecutors have used laws against lying to federal investigators as a way to gain cooperators and gather information during their probe. According to the document, Gates was aware of "Person A's" connection to Russian intelligence services.

Manafort, who has denied knowingly communicating with Russian intelligence officials in 2016, pleaded not guilty to conspiracy, fraud and money laundering charges tied to their alleged work for a Russian-friendly Ukraine political party. "During his first interview with the Special Counsel's Office, van der Zwaan admitted that he knew of that connection, stating that Gates told him Person A was a former Russian Intelligence Officer with the GRU".

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"And while his actions following his initial meeting with the OSC can not absolve him from culpability, they are compelling mitigating factors in considering punishment", the brief says, abbreviating Office of Special Counsel.

The attorney who pleaded guilty in February to lying to Federal Bureau of Investigation agents about his contacts with former Trump campaign associate Rick Gates, asked prosecutors late Tuesday to let him skate with no jail time.

Ever since his guilty plea last month, van der Zwaan's relation to the case has been unclear.

A spokesman for Manafort, who is prevented by a court-imposed gag order from talking to the press, declined to comment., Inc. (AMZN) Analysts See $1.19 EPS
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Mr. Kilimnik was born in Ukraine when it was still part of the Soviet Union, and he served in the Russian Army as a linguist.

"He has been alone, separated from his (pregnant) wife; he has lost his job and his career", the defense said in its filing noting that he could be at the mercy of immigration authorities should he be thrown in jail.

The defense also asked that he be allowed to be present for the birth of his child, due in August and to return to help his mother who also wrote to the court pleading to have her son released.

Whether that's pertinent to the broader collusion investigation is something we'll have to wait to find out. Instead, van der Zwaan asks to pay an "appropriate fine", according to the filing.

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Sentencing guidelines suggest 0 to 6 months in prison.

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