Outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller smiles as he speaks at the Justice Department in Washington, Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013, during his farewell ceremony. Mueller is stepping down in September after 12 years heading the agency. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Yesterday, Special Counsel Robert Mueller made a new filing in his ongoing investigation of whatever the hell it is that he’s investigating. This particular filing was in connection with the guilty plea of Alex van der Zwaan. Van der Zwaan was, if you recall, the Skadden Arps attorney who worked on a report commissioned by Paul Manafort for Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych justifying the prosecution of a political opponent. Van der Zwaan was accused of lying to federal agents.
At some point, van der Zwaan had a telephone call with Richard Gates (also indicted) and a Russian known as Person A.
What this says was that van der Zwaan was told that Person A was a former Russian intelligence officer. The FBI claims that he still had ties to Russian intelligence at the time, but, at the risk of damaging FBI morale, we are all too familiar with the track record of FBI claims (see the Bundy case, for instance. Or the ongoing prosecution of Noor Salman.)
This is how CBS covered it:
Documents filed by special counsel prosecutors reveal that former Trump deputy campaign chairman Richard Gates was knowingly working with an individual with ties to Russian intelligence during the campaign, CBS News Paula Reid reports. In a late Tuesday court filing late, the special counsel alleged that this unnamed person worked for one of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s companies and was in touch with Gates in September and October 2016. This individual is also described as being “pertinent to the investigation.”
There are two false statements here. Nowhere it the filing does it state that anyone knew Person A was a current intelligence officer. And nowhere in the filing does it say that Person A was of any interest to Mueller beyond him having been in communication with Gates and van der Zwaan. In fact, the phrase “pertinent to the investigation” does not appear in the filing.
And this is how Twitter covered it.
Big news: Mueller told the court that Gates knew that he and Manafort were working with a former Russian intelligence officer. https://t.co/z4Skzaz5LV
— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) March 28, 2018
Big news here is that Trump’s deputy campaign chair apparently knew he and Manafort were working with a former Russian intel agent. https://t.co/4irrjGkMIg
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) March 28, 2018
Mueller's office says FBI agents determined that a person who worked with Manafort and Gates "has ties to a Russian intelligence service." He told Van Der Zwaan that he was a former GRU intelligence officer. pic.twitter.com/IuYvuKcSsq
— Brad Heath (@bradheath) March 28, 2018
In a court filing Tuesday night special counsel Robert Mueller said Rick Gates and Paul Manafort were working with a former Russian intelligence officer in September & October of 2016. Throw them all in prison for the rest of their lives. TRAITORS! https://t.co/4MUSEm6qBT
— Scott Dworkin (@funder) March 28, 2018
The FBI has found that a business associate of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort had ongoing ties to Russian intelligence, including during the 2016 campaign when Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, were in touch with the associate https://t.co/9IdYrErUqe
— Citizens for Ethics (@CREWcrew) March 28, 2018
This whole thing smells of desperation on all counts. This whole grimy episode is chocked to the gills with “former Russian intelligence officers.” The Fusion GPS stringer and attendee at the infamous Trump Tower meeting, Rinat Akhmetshin, was a former GRU officer. Virtually all of the sources in Christopher Steele’s Trump dossier are current or former Russian intelligence officers…or would be suspected of being so. The fact that the guy was known to be a former intelligence officer is a nice McCarthyite description but it is pretty meaningless. The fact that Mueller feels the necessity of throwing this slur into a sentencing memorandum (spoiler alert: van der Zwaan didn’t ‘flip’ on anyone) shows he’s beginning to feel some heat for the abusive and interminable investigation he’s carrying out.