Mueller charges lawyer Alex Van Der Zwaan in US election investigation

Alex Van Der Zwaan is accused by US Special Counsel Robert Mueller of misleading investigators about communications with political consultant and lobbyist Rick Gates.

Mr Gates was deputy to Paul Manafort, the former campaign manager for Donald Trump in the run-up to the presidential election.

The indictment also accuses Mr Van Der Zwaan of deleting or otherwise not producing emails sought by the Special Counsel’s office.

He is accused of lying to investigators about conversations related to a report he helped prepare on the trial of a Ukrainian politician, Yulia Tymoshenko, as part of his work for the Ukraine Ministry of Justice.

Mr Van Der Zwaan is also charged with lying about talks with someone named “Person A”.

The lawyer will appear in the US District Court in Washington on Tuesday afternoon local time to enter a plea.

Mr Manafort and Mr Gates were indicted in October last year as part of Mr Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling.

Both men were charged with 12 counts of conspiracy against the United States, making false statements, money laundering and failing to register as foreign agents for Ukraine.

The charges arose from consultant work for a pro-Russian government in Ukraine.

They both pleaded not guilty, with Mr Manafort released on $10m bond and Mr Gates released on $5m bond and placed under house arrest as they were deemed a flight risk.

On 15 February Mr Gates finalised a plea deal with Mr Mueller’s office, indicating he will cooperate in the election investigation.

It is not known if Mr Gates’ cooperation led to Mr Van Der Zwaan’s indictment.

A total of 19 people have now been charged as part of the investigation, including five US nationals, 13 Russians and one Dutchman, Mr Van Der Zwaan.

George Papadopoulos, who was on the Trump campaign’s foreign policy advisory panel, admitted in October 2017 to making false statements to FBI agents about contacts he had with the Russian government in 2016.

As part of a plea bargain he has been cooperating with the investigation.

Michael Flynn, who was briefly Mr Trump’s national security advisor at the start of his presidency, admitted to lying to the FBI about contacts he had with the Russian government during the presidential transition.

He has also been cooperating with the investigation.

Californian Richard Pinedo reached a plea deal to cooperate with Mr Mueller last week after admitting to selling bank account numbers created using the stolen identities of US citizens to people outside the US, related to derogatory social media adverts about Mr Trump’s rival candidates.

On the same day, 13 employees of a Russian troll factory, Internet Research Agency, and three other Russian entities were charged with interfering in the election.

According to the indictment, the organisation sought to conduct “what it called ‘information warfare against the United States of America’ through fictitious US personas on social media platforms and other internet-based media”.

The Internet Research Agency’s funding came through a catering company owned by Evgeny Prigozhin, who is among the 13 charged in the indictment and is widely considered to be close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as being his chef.

The defendants “primarily intended to communicate derogatory information about Hillary Clinton, to denigrate other candidates such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and to support Bernie Sanders and then-candidate Donald Trump”, according to court documents.

Mr Trump said the Russian indictments vindicate him as they show there was no collusion between Russians and his campaign.

The indictments do not mention collusion at all.

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