First Mueller Guilty Plea Gets Sentenced

Alex van der Zwaan arrives at Federal District Court in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. Van der Zwaan has been accused of lying to investigators about his interactions with Rick Gates, who was indicted last year along with Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump's campaign chairman, on charges of conspiracy to launder money and acting as an unregistered foreign agent. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Alex van der Zwaan arrives at Federal District Court in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. Van der Zwaan has been accused of lying to investigators about his interactions with Rick Gates, who was indicted last year along with Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s campaign chairman, on charges of conspiracy to launder money and acting as an unregistered foreign agent. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

 

In February, the special counsel announced that a lawyer named Alex van der Zwaan had been charged with lying to federal agents. Van der Zwaan, the son-in-law of one of the Russian oligarchs and an attorney (or was until he was fired) at the major law firm of Skadden Arps, had worked on some Ukraine related work with Paul Manafort. He subsequently pleaded guilty. Today he was sentenced.

A federal judge on Tuesday sentenced Dutch lawyer Alex van der Zwaan to 30 days in prison for lying to federal investigators, according to multiple reports, in the first criminal sentence to result from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Van der Zwaan, who was also ordered to pay $20,000 in fines, pleaded guilty in late February to making “materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements and representations” to the special counsel’s office and FBI agents.

According to Mueller’s team, Van Der Zwaan worked closely with Manafort and Gates on the report, which defended the handling of Tymoshenko’s trial by the Russia-aligned government of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. The State Department criticized the report as a deceptive assessment of the Yanukovych government’s conduct and Mueller’s team has accused Manafort and Gates of funneling $4 million to secretly pay for it.

Skadden, a powerful New York law firm, has said it fired Van Der Zwaan last year and is cooperating with the investigation.

Van Der Zwaan’s precise value to the Mueller investigation remains unclear.

As I’ve said repeatedly about several of Mueller’s arrests, the fact that these people are pleading guilty to lying is a good indicator that they were low-hanging fruit (can I even say that these days?) that Mueller is using to build a body count. A conviction for lying doesn’t make you all that useful as a cooperating witness for obvious reasons: like, you’re a liar.