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First Sentence Handed Down in Mueller Probe to Attorney van der Zwaan

On April 3, 2018, Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe resulted in the sentencing of attorney Alex Van der Zwaan to 30 days in jail. Tanner Kenney provides details of today's sentencing and what it means for the overarching investigation into Russian meddling.


What: Attorney Alex van der Zwaan has been sentenced to 30 days in jail, fined $20,000 after pleading guilty to lying to the FBI in the Mueller probe

When: April 3rd, 2018

Earlier this morning, Alex van der Zwaan was sentenced to thirty days in jail and fined $20,000 after the attorney plead guilty to a single charge of lying to FBI investigators probing Russia’s meddling in the 2016 elections. Today marks a milestone in the case, led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and supported by a wide-ranging team of attorneys, as it is the first sentence imposed against a defendant in the investigation. It is also notable for a much more interesting reason as van der Zwaan waived his Freedom of Information Act rights in the process.

In doing so, van der Zwaan – a former Skadden lawyer and the son-in-law of the Ukrainian-born, Russian businessman, German Khan – signaled that he is both comfortable that the judge followed the previously-agreed-upon parameters of his sentence as well as the fact that he will continue to be a valuable asset for the Mueller team. As past links to parties may make the attorney a target for further collusion, it will be vital to prevent the release of additional information to van der Zwaan and his legal representation to prevent leaks.

Moreover, Robert Mueller and his team have been the target of public attacks from all sides without adequate defense – its detractors have cited the team’s bills, their political affiliations, and beyond in their criticism of the Office of the Special Counsel’s investigation. But in voiding van der Zwaan’s FOIA rights, the team can effectively put this aspect of the investigation to bed permanently as the move essentially ensures the attorney will not appeal his sentence.

Perhaps the most important aspect of today’s revelations in the van der Zwaan’s case is that his sentencing agreement could provide precedent for the trial of former Trump aide Robert Gates. Although Gates has already pleaded guilty and cooperated with the investigation, the former Trump aide may not receive the same, relatively lenient treatment, as Alex van der Zwaan did in today’s hearing. Gates is accused of lying to the Special Counsel during his proffer meeting earlier in the investigation when they assumed he would be providing any and all pertinent information.

It currently appears as though van der Zwaan recorded at least one encounter with Gates and ‘Person A’, who is believed to be a former Russian intelligence officer that worked for one of Paul Manafort’s firms, and will most likely play a major role in that trial, as well. Therefore, it is possible that the individuals currently involved in the Special Counsel’s investigation will not only be used against one another but have much more to say about other individuals involved in the conspiracy, as well.

Tanner Kenney is an energy and media professional with a background in journalism and received his M.S. in Global Affairs, Environment & Energy Policy from NYU’s Center for Global Affairs. Recently, Tanner has focused on the advocacy of sustainable development through renewable energy technologies, transportation efficiency, and inclusive public policy. 

Photo Credit: Reuters


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