Who Is This Handsome Young Lawyer, And Why Bob Mueller Gonna Throw Him IN JAIL?
Okay, kids, time for a POP QUIZ! It's just one question, so don't freak out.
Who should you be more afraid of crossing,
A) Your boss; or
B) The FBI.
If you said A, go directly to jail, even if you are a rich white guy with a fancy education and a pregnant wife. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.
Because if you lie to the Special Counsel about your contacts during the campaign with Konstantin Kilimnik and you omit the part where Rick Gates described him as "a former Russian Intelligence Officer with the GRU," then you're going to jail. The fact that you're going to get fired is the least of your problems!
Also, OH, LOOK WE FOUND SOME COLLUSION BETWEEN MANAFORT AND RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE DURING THE CAMPAIGN!
How do you say "Backstory" in Ukrainian?
In 2011, Russian-backed politician Viktor Yanukovych ousted Ukraine's pro-Western leader Yuliya Tymoshenko and threw her in jail on trumped-up charges. Then he summoned his favorite lobbyist ratfucker Paul Manafort, and handed him a pile of cash to get a fancy American law firm to give the Yanukovych regime a clean bill of health.
Manafort took several million off the top of the pile and laundered it through various shell companies, ALLEGEDLY. Then he handed $5 million to the prestigious Skadden law firm to write a report saying that the charges against Tymoshenko were totes legitimate. So London-based attorney Alexander van der Zwaan got to work on a Very Serious Inquiry "proving" that Yuliya Tymoshenko was a terrible person and the Yanukovych regime was absolutely right to throw her in jail. Van der Zwaan conveniently forgot to mention that the Yanukovych government was busily looting the Ukrainian treasury and repressing dissent. Why ruin a good report, right?
Van der Zwaan 'goes native'
Lured by Manafort's animal magnetism -- or maybe just his cash -- Alexander van der Zwaan made a series of comically shitty decisions. Despite being ordered by his supervising partner NOT to talk to a PR firm, so as to preserve a figleaf of objectivity for Skadden, Van der Zwaan leaked a copy of the report to the public relations guys and coordinated talking points directly with Rick Gates.
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.
So when the Special Counsel came looking for all Skadden's emails with Manafort, Gates and Person A, Van der Zwaan had A PROBLEM. Because his emails were full of all the shit he'd done with Manafort and Gates after being ordered by his boss not to. And instead of coming clean, Van der Zwaan decided it would be better to delete those emails and lie to the FBI about his contacts with Manafort, Gates, and Person A during the 2016 campaign.
That boy done lost his damn mind!
Wait, who is Person A?
Well! That would be Konstantin Kilimnik, a Ukrainian national with strong ties to Russian intelligence and Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. Remember how Paul Manafort tried to trade private briefings on the campaign to work off his debt to Deripaska? Kilimnik was the conduit Manafort emailed that offer to!
And when the Special Counsel asked Van der Zwaan about his contacts with Kilimnik during the campaign, the lawyer just plum forgot about a bunch of emails and phone calls. Oooopsie!
Further, van der Zwaan in fact had a series of calls with Gates and Person A -- as well as the lead partner on the matter -- in September and October 2016. The conversations concerned potential criminal charges in Ukraine about the Tymoshenko report and how the firm was compensated for its work. The calls were memorable: van der Zwaan had taken the precaution of recording the conversations with Gates, Person A, and the senior partner who worked on the report. In van der Zwaan’s recorded conversation with Person A, in Russian, 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.”
See, Yanukovych had been overthrown by then, and the new Ukrainian government was investigating the payments to Skadden for that Very Serious Report. And what a coincidence that Van der Zwaan failed to produce an email from Kilimnik dated September 12, 2016, in which the Ukrainian asks "to exchange a few words via WhatsApp or Telegram,” i.e. asked for an off-the-record conversation.
This seems BAD, huh?
Yeah, it does! You've got Manafort and Gates knowingly doing business with a member of the Russian intelligence GRU during the campaign around the time the RNC mysteriously changed its stance on Russian intervention in Ukraine. You've got a record of "additional payments" that may well bolster the money-laundering case against Paul Manafort. And you've got a lawyer who knew goddamn well that lying to the FBI was a crime, and now he'd like to avoid jail time, please, because he came clean eventually.
And that's not how any of this works.
As prosecutor Andrew Weissmann put it in the Sentencing Memorandum filed with the court yesterday,
To be sure, after van der Zwaan’s lies and withholding of documents were revealed, van der Zwaan produced to his law firm the above-mentioned recordings made on the law firm’s recording equipment. That he did so -- and did not further obstruct justice, or further disobey the instructions of his then-employer -- is not, however, a mitigating factor. He does not deserve credit for adhering to the law.
Van der Zwaan's sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 3. But we're guessing that a guy who lied to the FBI and destroyed evidence is probably going to jail. Yes, even a handsome white man with a law degree. BYE, FELICIA!
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.