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Special counsel: Manafort, Gates worked with Russian intelligence agent

Special counsel: Manafort, Gates worked with Russian intelligence agent

The special counsel Robert Mueller's office disclosed the information late Tuesday in documents related to the sentencing of Alex van der Zwaan, a Dutch lawyer.

Van Der Zwaan, 33, says "his days are empty and lonely".

The court filing says van der Zwaan not only spoke with both Gates and the unnamed person about a report on a controversial Ukrainian politician's trial, but also destroyed evidence Mueller's office was seeking, including the September 2016 email.

Unlike four other defendants in the Mueller probe who have pleaded guilty to criminal charges, van der Zwaan did not enter into an ongoing cooperation agreement with the special counsel's office.

Van der Zwaan will be the first person to face sentencing in Mueller's probe, CNN noted.

What do Manafort and van der Zwaan have in common?

Ever since his guilty plea last month, van der Zwaan's relation to the case has been unclear.

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USA news accounts of Mueller's court filing said the description of the former Russian intelligence official appeared to match that of Konstantin Kilimnik, a Ukrainian-based aide employed by Gates and Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort when they worked for years as consultants on behalf of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who was toppled in a popular uprising in 2014 before fleeing to exile in Russia.

Gates pleaded guilty last month and is now cooperating with Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading the Russian Federation investigation.

The connection between Gates and the former intelligence officer, identified only as "Person A" in the records filed late on Tuesday, is significant because criminal charges against Gates and Manafort relate only to their lobbying work for Ukraine prior to the 2016 US presidential election and do not delve into their activities during the campaign.

Attorney Alex Van Der Zwann was sacked by prominent NY law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP past year, and pleaded guilty as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

"Although Alex committed a serious offense, just punishment does not require incarceration", the filing states.

He also says he's anxious he'll miss the birth of his first child, which is due in August.

In exchange for the guilty plea, Mueller's office agreed not to pursue charges against van der Zwaan in connection with any other false statements he made in November or December 2017, destruction of documents or evidence, or violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act - which requires individuals who lobby on behalf of foreign entities to register with the U.S. government - in connection with his work for the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice.

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According to his sentencing memorandum, van der Zwaan first met with the special counsel's office on November 3.

"Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agents assisting the Special Counsel's Office assess that Person A has ties to a Russian intelligence service and had such ties in 2016", Mueller said in the filing.

Person A had told van der Zwaan that the Ukrainian government might pursue charges against him related to his work on the Tymoshenko report, and he had also discussed the Ukrainian investigation with Gates and a partner at his law firm, according to the filing.

Manafort - who is fighting charges from Mueller that relate to his work prior to joining Trump - left the campaign in August 2016 after reports about questionable payments he received from his work related to Ukraine.

That Person A has had ties to Russian intelligence is not terribly surprising. His association with Gates and Manafort had been previously known, but not that those contacts continued into the presidential campaign.

The special counsel's office countered that van der Zwaan's decision to come clean to Skadden about recordings he made using firm equipment were not "mitigating factors".

"The conduct that brings Alex before this Court was inexcusable", the filing says.

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