A lawyer who worked with Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort and campaign adviser Richard Gates in Ukraine has been sentenced to 30 days in prison. He was also fined $20,000 and given two months of supervised release.
This is the first sentence to be imposed by special counsel Robert Mueller since he started his investigation.
Alex van der Zwaan worked with Gates and Manafort long before the 2016 campaign, when Manafort and Gates were working as lobbyists for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine. The work of van der Zwaan’s law firm was legally required to be separate from the lobbying done by Manafort and Gates, but van der Zwaan leaked information to Gates. He also lied about conversations that he had with Gates regarding possible criminal charges against his law firm in Ukraine. Manafort will go on trial in July.
Van der Zwaan pled guilty to lying to investigators about his communication with Gates. Although he was indicted by Mueller, van der Zwaan’s conviction is not part of Mueller’s investigation into whether Trump colluded with the Russians.
"What I did was wrong. I apologize to the court, my wife and my family,” van der Zwaan told the judge.
Judge Amy Berman Jackson said that since van der Zwaan is a lawyer himself, he should have known better than to lie to investigators, and that he “put his personal interests ahead of justice.”
Van der Zwaan’s lawyer had argued that he client should not serve any time, despite the guilty plea, because his wife is pregnant and “needs him now.”
His lawyers also argued that he did not try hinder the investigation, but lied because he was afraid that details from his testimony might lead to repercussions from his supervisors at the law firm.
Besides lying to investigators, prosecutors said that van der Zwaan had tried to destroy emails to cover his tracks.
While he is the first person to be sentenced by Mueller, van der Zwaan is the 19th person indicted and the fourth to plead guilty. The other three guilty pleas came from former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, and Gates.