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Saturday, March 31, 2018

Mueller makes two points: Manafort had active ties to Russia and don't mess with the special counsel

UNITED STATES - JULY 12: GOP nominee Donald Trump, flanked from left by campaign manager Paul Manafort, and daughter Ivanka Trump, checks the podium early Thursday afternoon in preparation for accepting the GOP nomination to be President at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio on Thursday July 21, 2016. (File Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)
Trump, Manafort, Trump
Documents filed on Tuesday in connection with the indictment of Dutch lawyer Alex van der Zwaan give some fresh insight into the investigation being conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Among the information made public: A business associate of Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort had a direct connection to Russian intelligence—and that includes during the 2016 campaign.
Manafort, 68, has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy, money laundering, and tax and bank fraud charges related to his lobbying work for a Russian-friendly political party in Ukraine and former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. …
Prosecutors made the allegation without naming the Manafort associate but described his role with Manafort in detail. The description matches the Russian manager of Manafort’s lobbying office in Kiev, Konstantin Kilimnik.
The associate, named in court documents as “Person A,” is described as a former GRU (the main military foreign-intelligence service of the Russian Federation) officer—a description that fits Kilimnik.
During Kilimnik’s time working for Manafort in Kiev, he had served as a liaison for Manafort to the Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, with whom Manafort had done business. Emails previously described to The Post show that Manafort asked Kilimnik during the campaign to offer Deripaska “private briefings” about Trump’s effort.
According to the court documents, “Person A” was in communication with Manafort and Gates during the 2016 campaign and had continued contact with Manafort’s former associates in Ukraine.

The second item revealed is no surprise: Robert Mueller is seriously invested in the idea that lying to the special counsel’s office should generate more than a slap on the wrist. 

Alex van der Zwaan seems on the surface like a very small player in the whole Trump-Russia investigation. But there’s a difference between his indictment last month on charges of lying to investigators and similar charges against Rick Gates, Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos—van der Zwaan is not a cooperating witness. He’s just … indicted.

And despite claims that van der Zwaan wants to get this behind him and get home to his pregnant wife, Robert Mueller doesn’t seem in a hurry to signal that he’ll overlook van der Zwaan’s actions.
In court papers filed late Tuesday, special counsel Robert Mueller's office argued that a judge shouldn't rule out jail time for Alex van der Zwaan, a lawyer who pleaded guilty to lying to prosecutors and the FBI in the Russia investigation.
Van der Zwaan’s indictment may not have come with an agreement to testify, but it did come as part of a plea deal that allowed van der Zwaan to avoid additional charges based on multiple instances of lying to investigators and withholding documents pertinent to the investigation. While van der Zwaan’s attorney’s are arguing that his indictment should carry the minimum sentence—a fine and no jail time—the special counsel has a particular reason to see van der Zwaan cooling his heels for at least a few months.
"The defendant was expressly warned by the government that it is a crime to lie to the Special Counsel’s Office, that lying could constitute a federal crime, and that such conduct would carry with it the possibility of going to jail if he were convicted. van der Zwaan stated that he understood. He thereafter deliberately and repeatedly lied," they wrote.
He was warned, but he persisted … in lying to the special counsel’s office. Which is not the kind of behavior that any special counsel is going to take lightly. After all, there are still a lot of people who haven’t taken their turn in Mueller’s chair, and they should all know that not telling the truth there carries serious consequences.

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