In a bombshell action that took place last week, special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 individuals on charges pertaining to wire and bank fraud, five of whom are also being charged for aggravated identity theft. The actions taken by Mueller shows yet another step forward by the special counsel’s team in identifying Russia’s role in interfering and meddling with the 2016 presidential elections, and the potential role played by members of the Trump campaign.
On Tuesday, another individual plead guilty to charges placed against him by Mueller, specifically an attorney who now claims to have lied to federal investigators regarding interactions with Trump campaign officials. According to a U.S. News Report:
‘Alex van der Zwaan is entering the plea in federal court in Washington where he is admitting to lying to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators about his interactions with Rick Gates. Gates is a former aide on President Donald Trump’s campaign and a longtime associate of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.’
Van Der Zwaan’s guilty plea, although not directly tied to election meddling or Trump campaign involvement, is crucial to the broader investigation. Not only did the attorney lie in regards to interactions with Trump team members, but considering the fact that Gates is now reportedly close to reaching a plea deal with the special counsel, which could lead to a testimony against Paul Manafort, it sheds light on the increasing tumbling of dominos that has taken place within the Trump circle.
The lawyer Mueller charged with a federal felony today is the son-in-law of a Putin ally. That ally is connected to a Russian oil company and Alfa Group—whose pinging of Trump Tower systems during the campaign was never explained. So this charge isn't as far afield as some think.
— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) February 20, 2018
Gates and Manafort were both indicted last year by the special counsel, and although initially entering pleas of not guilty, it is clear that Gates understands the consequences that may arise if he fails to protect himself against the unraveling Russia inquiry.
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) February 20, 2018
Van Der Zwaan claimed that his misrepresentation of information to federal investigators was due to his work with a third party firm hired by the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice, in an attempt to deflect international criticism regarding the mishandled prosecution and conviction of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, in 2011. Reports also show that Van Der Zwaan’s work with the third party was tied with Manafort’s arrangement of developing the report that would be in favor of Viktor Yanukovych, the previous Ukrainian president.
By charging a lawyer today, Bob Mueller sends a message to every lawyer involved in this probe, in and out of government, that false statements and obstruction will be prosecuted.
— Ari Melber (@AriMelber) February 20, 2018
Although the separate cases may look confusing at the onset, the fact that these issues are so closely interrelated to Trump’s top campaign officials sheds light on the progress that the Mueller investigation has made. With Gates’s testimony likely not far off, information regarding Manafort’s role in potential interactions with Russia may prove yet another damning revelation against the Trump team.
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