Mueller Comes Up Short - Again

When they have nothing, prosecutors charge people with lying to the feds.

A Dutch lawyer unconnected to the unproven claim the Trump campaign somehow colluded with Russia to influence the outcome of the 2016 election has pled guilty to lying to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators.

This failure – yet again – to indict a Trump campaign official in connection with the campaign’s allegedly collusive behavior appears to constitute another tacit admission by Mueller that the Left’s electoral collusion conspiracy theory that he was commissioned to investigate is utter nonsense. Charging all these people with lying, instead of with anything related to collusion, is likely a prosecutorial tactic to pressure somebody somewhere into doing something. Mueller’s real target seems to be former Trump campaign manager Paul J. Manafort Jr.

This small-potatoes indictment comes a year after the outlines of a Watergate-like conspiracy emerged in which a term-limited Democrat president used the privacy-invading apparatus of the state to spy on a Republican presidential candidate. Watergate differed in that President Nixon didn’t get involved in the plot against the Democratic National Committee until later as an accomplice after the fact.

Mueller’s latest piñata is Alex van der Zwaan, a Russian-speaking, London-based attorney and the son-in-law of Russian oligarch German Borisovich Khan. Khan, who is worth more than $10 billion, was born in Kiev, Ukraine and is reportedly a citizen of Russia, Ukraine, and Israel. Van der Zwaan, 33, married Khan’s daughter, art critic Eva Khan, last year.

Van der Zwaan is the 19th person to be charged by Mueller. On Friday, 13 Russians on a so-called troll farm located in Russia were charged with interfering in the 2016 U.S. election by posing as Americans and organizing political rallies inside the U.S.

The attorney had worked for the international corporate law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom, but the firm indicated it fired him last year and was cooperating with Mueller’s investigation.

Van der Zwaan answered a grand jury’s indictment in federal court in the nation’s capital yesterday afternoon by pleading guilty to one count of lying to federal agents.

According to court documents, van der Zwaan deleted or failed to hand over emails sought by Mueller’s office. He also allegedly lied about when he last communicated with former Trump campaign aide Richard W. Gates III and an individual referred to in the probe as "Person A." Mueller previously charged Gates and Manafort with conspiracy to launder money and other offenses.

According to a New York Times summary of the court appearance, van der Zwaan “acknowledged … he lied to prosecutors about a September 2016 conversation with Rick Gates … over work they did together for a Ukrainian political party aligned with Russia.”

Although he could be sentenced to as many as five years in prison, van der Zwaan “said in court that he expected to serve six months or less,” according to the newspaper. The judge scheduled sentencing for April 3.

Meanwhile, Gates has agreed to plead guilty to fraud-related charges and to testify against Manafort, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday, citing confidential sources.

Manafort managed the Trump campaign from June to August 2016, until controversy over his business dealings in Eastern Europe led to his firing. He was replaced by Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon. Gates is a protégé of Manafort who served as his deputy in the campaign and partner in various business enterprises.

Gates and Manafort are also charged with acting as "unregistered agents" of the former pro-Russian president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, as well as his party. Yanukovych defeated Ukraine’s anti-Russian prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, in the 2010 presidential election but was ousted during a revolution in February 2014. Yanukovych fled to Russia. Ukrainian authorities are planning to try him in absentia for treason.

Court documents in the van der Zwaan case state that while the lawyer was employed in 2012 by Skadden, Arps, the law firm prepared a report for Ukraine's Ministry of Justice on the trial of Tymoshenko, who in 2011 was convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison for abusing her power. She claims the prosecution was meritless and political.

Tymoshenko, incidentally, received an award “in recognition of her commitment to freedom and democracy in Ukraine” from the American Conservative Union at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) held in March 2007. (This year’s CPAC gets underway in a Washington, D.C., suburb this Thursday and runs through Saturday.)

The Kyiv Post describes van der Zwaan in a headline as the “Attorney who whitewashed Tymoshenko prosecution[.]”

The media outlet recalled that the Yanukovych administration hired Skadden partner and former Obama White House Counsel Gregory Craig to write a report on the prosecution, evaluating whether her imprisonment complied with internationally accepted legal standards. The report determined “Yanukovych-era legal officials did not deprive Tymoshenko of her right to due process during the trial … [which] State Department official Victoria Nuland criticized at the time as ‘incomplete.’”

“Our concern is that Skadden Arps lawyers were obviously not going to find political motivation if they weren’t looking for it,” Nuland said at a presser after the report was released in December 2012.

“Skadden returned $567,000 to the Ukrainian government in June 2017, amid allegations that the firm received $1.1 million in money laundered out of the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice as payment for the investigation,” the Kyiv Post report continued.

The Mueller investigation, as increasingly pointless, petty, and partisan as it seems, continues.