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Justice official authorized Mueller to investigate whether Manafort colluded with Russia

Justice official authorized Mueller to investigate whether Manafort colluded with Russia

Justice official authorized Mueller to investigate whether Manafort colluded with Russia

A Dutch lawyer with direct knowledge of contacts between Russian intelligence and a top official in US President Donald Trump's campaign became the first person sentenced in special prosecutor Robert Mueller's sprawling investigation Tuesday.

Tuesday's sentencing hearing was the first of the Mueller investigation since the special counsel was appointed 11 months ago.

Prosecutor Andrew Weissmann did not request a specific punishment for van der Zwann but he did point out that "the defendant is an attorney who after being explicitly warned about the consequences of lying. went ahead and repeatedly lied to the government".

In pleading guilty, van der Zwaan admitted that he withheld and deleted emails, and also that he lied to Federal Bureau of Investigation agents about previous communications with Manafort protege Gates and a person who worked for Manafort in Ukraine identified as "Person A".

"It is unusual conduct in the least to make a false statement and then provide proof of the false statement", Schwartz said.

Ms Tymoshenko, a former Ukrainian prime minister, was jailed in 2011 over a gas deal with Russian Federation, in charges she said were politically motivated.

The judge said van der Zwaan, unlike some defendants who have come before her, possesses the financial and emotional resources to weather hard times.

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"What I did was wrong", he said to the judge, reading quietly from a single sheet of paper after his defense attorney and the prosecutor each spoke.

"He is literally in limbo", Mr Schwartz said.

When van der Zwaan was asked about his discussions with Gates and Person A during a meeting with the special counsel's office on November 3, he said that his last communication with Gates was an "innocuous text message" in August 2016, and that he hadn't spoken with Person A since 2014.

Gates has pleaded guilty to reduced charges and, according to reports, is cooperating with Mueller's probe. The firm had been hired by former Ukrainian president Victor Yanukovych, a Vladimir Putin ally, in 2012.

Manafort has acknowledged staying in frequent contact with Kilimnik during the time he worked for Trump's campaign. He has pleaded not guilty and denied any wrongdoing related to Russian election interference.

Van der Zwaan covered up his discussions with Gates and a business associate based in Ukraine in September 2016, while the Trump campaign operation was in full swing. 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.

The corporate lawyer was asked to produce a document to whitewash Yanukovich's arrest of Yulia Tymoshenko, a former prime minister who had mocked a Ukrainian court years before the 2016 elections. Yanukovych had imprisoned Tymoshenko, a political rival, after a gas supply controversy in 2009 involving Russian Federation.

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