Gates Knew Contact During Campaign was Russian Intelligence, Says Mueller Document

Rick Gates arrives at federal court in Washington on Feb. 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON — A document filed late Tuesday by the special counsel said that an unnamed person former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates was talking to before the election was a former Russian intelligence officer, a fact known to Gates at the time.

Alex van der Zwaan, a Dutch lawyer who worked in London for New York law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, pleaded guilty last month to lying to special counsel Robert Mueller’s team about his contacts with Gates shortly before the presidential election.

Gates, who was Paul Manafort’s top deputy when Manafort was Trump’s campaign manager, was indicted at the end of October on money laundering and conspiracy charges along with his former boss. Three days after van der Zwaan’s guilty plea, Gates flipped his plea, admitted financial fraud and lying to investigators, and began cooperating with Mueller.

While Manafort left the Trump campaign in August 2016, Gates stayed on through the election and then worked for the Trump inaugural committee.

Manafort worked for former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in the 2010 election, when he was challenged by Orange Revolution opposition leader and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. A year after Yanukovych’s victory, Tymoshenko was arrested and charged with corruption offenses. Facing backlash over the political motivation of the charges — for which she was exonerated years later — Yanukovych’s government asked Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom to compile a report in 2012 that said politics did not have an effect on the prosecution.

According to the original court documents, van der Zwaan lied to Mueller’s investigators Nov. 3 while answering questions about the Tymoshenko report in regards to his last communication with Gates and an unidentified individual in Ukraine referred to as Person A, a “longtime business associate” of Manafort and Gates. Van der Zwaan said his last communication with Gates had been an “innocuous text message” in mid-August 2016 and that he hadn’t spoken with Person A since 2014, when in reality he spoke with both Gates and Person A about the Tymoshenko report in September 2016 “and surreptitiously recorded the calls.”

Van der Zwaan is married to the daughter of German Khan, a director and co-owner of Alfa Bank. Last year, it was reported that the FBI was investigating potential server connections between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank.

Van der Zwaan is scheduled to be sentenced next Tuesday on one count of making false statements. In the sentencing memorandum filed late Tuesday, Muller said the lawyer was “expressly warned by the government that it is a crime to lie to the Special Counsel’s Office, that lying could constitute a federal crime, and that such conduct would carry with it the possibility of going to jail if he were convicted. van der Zwaan stated that he understood. He thereafter deliberately and repeatedly lied,” as well as “withheld and otherwise destroyed documents requested by the Special Counsel’s Office through his counsel relating to his work with Manafort, Gates, and Person A” including a Sept. 12, 2016, email “that the government had obtained through other means.”

There were a series of recorded calls with Gates, Person A and van der Zwaan, including one with the Ductch lawyer in Russian in which “Person A suggested that ‘there were additional payments,’ that ‘[t]he official contract was only a part of the iceberg,’ and that the story may become a blow for ‘you and me personally.’”

“That Gates and Person A were directly communicating in September and October 2016 was pertinent to the investigation. Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agents assisting the Special Counsel’s Office assess that Person A has ties to a Russian intelligence service and had such ties in 2016,” the document continues. “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.”

The U.S. intelligence community has determined that the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence directorate, was behind the hacking of the DNC. Mueller’s office has reportedly determined that Guccifer 2.0, the hacker who took responsibility for the WikiLeaks dump, is a GRU officer. Roger Stone, who direct-messaged Guccifer 2.0 on Twitter during the campaign, denies the hacker worked for Russian intel.

Person A may refer to Konstantin Kilimnik, who worked for Manafort in Ukraine.

The special counsel added that van der Zwaan “had, in the words of one witness, ‘gone native’—that is, he had grown too close to Manafort, Gates, and Person A” and lied to his law firm about leaking the Ukraine report.

Van der Zwaan’s wife is currently pregnant back in the UK, and Mueller concluded that “a sentence that ensured van der Zwaan’s return to the United Kingdom for the birth of his child in August 2018 would be within the recommended Guidelines’ range.”