Trump Aide Spoke During Campaign to Associate Tied to Russian Intelligence

Mar 29, 2018, 01:40
Trump Aide Spoke During Campaign to Associate Tied to Russian Intelligence

Last month, Van Der Zwaan pleaded guilty to lying to Special Counsel investigators about his conversations with President Trump's former campaign aide Rick Gates.

In the filing, Mueller said Gates told van der Zwaan that "Person A" was a former intelligence officer with Russia's foreign intelligence service, the GRU.

These new details were revealed in a court filing about the upcoming sentencing of Alex van der Zwaan, a Dutch lawyer who worked with Gates and Manafort.

The special counsel's filing also noted van der Zwaan "lied regarding topics at the center of a significant investigation into the criminal conduct of [former Trump campaign chairman] Paul J. Manafort, Jr., and Richard W. Gates III".

Several onlookers have noticed that the description closely matches Konstantin Kilimnik, who ran Manafort's Kyiv office, studied at the Russian military's languages institute, and says he briefed Manafort during the campaign. After van der Zwaan pleaded guilty to false statements on February 20, Kilimnik declined to comment on whether he was Person A.

Mueller's prosecutors have introduced evidence that Manafort emailed Kilimnik as recently as November 29, about changes to an editorial that ran in an English-language Ukrainian newspaper about his case. That Gates and Person A were directly communicating in September and October 2016 was pertinent to the investigation.

Fourth, the lies and withholding of documents were material to the Special Counsel's Office's investigation. This is income Manafort is accused of not reporting to the Treasury Department.

That Person A has had ties to Russian intelligence is not terribly surprising.

"Focused on preserving his career at Skadden, and fearful that truthful answers could lead to discovery of the recordings (and in particular, the discovery that he had recorded a Skadden partner), Alex made a awful decision: he chose to cut off the inquiry at its inception by lying about the September 2016 conversations with Gates and Person A", according to the defense filing. Prosecutors have said previously that a longtime Manafort and Gates associate had ties to Russian intelligence, but they have never said those ties remained during the 2016 campaign.

A Manafort spokesman expressed confidence in June that investigators would ultimately conclude that Manafort's interactions with Kilimnik were "perfectly permissible and not in furtherance of some conspiracy".

Proponents of the accusation that Trump "colluded" with Russian Federation during the 2016 presidential election jumped on the revelations. Van der Zwaan had recorded those calls, but in his first meeting with investigators, represented by a Skadden partner, he failed to tell investigators about the recordings, according to the filings. We will not likely get an answer to that question any time soon, but the contacts between Kilimnik and Gates in September and October of 2016 while Gates was still working on the campaign are undeniably curious, at the very least. Whether Gates has an explanation for keeping those contacts while on the Trump campaign remains to be seen.