His name is Alex van der Zwann. He is just 33 years old and has set fire to his career as a lawyer after pleading guilty in federal court to lying to the FBI. That’s a felony right there. He was charged by information and pled guilty at his first appearance, so we know there is some sort of cooperation deal in the works, and if he sings loudly and well he will probably avoid prison.
He is also newly married to a billionaire’s daughter, so his next paycheck is probably not one of his worries.
But he was clearly a young man with a bright future. A job in London working for a prominent firm, fluency in four languages, a rich young wife, a baby on the way … And now he’s a felon and a convicted liar. Bar card gone, job gone, reputation gone.
Let’s back up a bit and unpack the whole story, or at least what we know.
From the New York Times:
An attorney whose firm was accused of whitewashing abuses by the former president of Ukraine in cooperation with Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to lying to the special counsel investigating Russian election interference.
The attorney, Alex van der Zwaan, worked in London for the prominent New York law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. He was accused of making false statements regarding communications he had with Rick Gates, a longtime associate of Mr. Manafort and a former Trump campaign aide, about work they did in 2012 for the Ukrainian government, according to court papers.
The information is not as fact-rich as the “speaking indictments” against the 13 Russians, but it describes the lies van der Zwann told.
He has now pled guilty, and according to the New York Times,
… acknowledged in federal court in Washington that he lied to prosecutors about a September 2016 conversation with Rick Gates, the former Trump aide, over work they did together for a Ukrainian political party aligned with Russia. He also admitted that he deleted records of email exchanges that prosecutors had sought. He faces up to five years in prison but said in court that he expected to serve six months or less.
One interesting point that Newsweek makes is that,
Unlike in some of the other Mueller plea agreements, the one for van der Zwaan does not include a cooperation stipulation. But that does not mean he is not cooperating. Prosecutors often decide to keep such agreements under seal, according to Patrick Cotter, a former federal prosecutor. When it does appear in a plea agreement, “it’s there because the prosecutor wants it to be there,” Cotter previously told Newsweek, likely as “a way of sending a message to other potential people that you want to interview.”
My partner in crime David Malcolm did an excellent job in bringing you up to date on the saga, and I recommend his article.
I can’t help thinking, would a young man with his whole life ahead of him throw it all away over a few meaningless lies?
We’ll probably never find out unless some persuasive journalist gets him to open up.