Special counsel Robert Mueller has secured the first sentence in his probe into Russian election meddling, but the sentence has nothing to do with the 2016 election or Russian interference.
Alex van der Zwaan, a Dutch citizen who was educated in London, was sentenced to 30 days in prison and $20,000 in fines for lying to federal agents. Alex van der Zwaan is a lawyer who has worked for the major international firm Skadden Arps, where he was commissioned to work for pro-Russia clients in Ukraine and Russia.
In February, Mueller announced that van der Zwaan, the son-in-law of a Ukrainian-Russian oligarch, had lied to the FBI. So what was the blockbuster revelation, exactly? The Dutch lawyer pled guilty to making a false statement to investigators about which month he last communicated with former Trump campaign official Rick Gates and an unidentified associate of short-lived Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort.
During interviews with the FBI, van der Zwaan told the feds that he last spoke to Gates in August 2016, but it was later revealed that he spoke to Gates in September 2016. In the end, Mueller threw the book at a man simply for being one month off about his communications with Trump officials.
The charges appear minor, but Mueller has long been insistent that van der Zwaan serve time in jail for his misstatement.
Alex van der Zwaan’s defense team has argued in favor of no jail time, pointing to his wife’s pregnancy and coming due date to try to keep him at home. However, last week, Mueller’s team asked the judge presiding over the case to sentence him to time in prison.
“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,” Mueller’s office wrote.
Alex van der Zwaan’s father-in-law, German Khan, is one of the three oligarchs to appear in the DNC- and Clinton-funded Steele dossier, which makes bombastic and unproven allegations about the Trump campaigns supposed collusion with the Russian government. Not a single major allegation in the Steele dossier has been proven, but that hasn’t stopped Mueller from using it as a “road map” for his special counsel probe. Khan and two other oligarchs are suing BuzzFeed for defamation for publishing the dossier’s unproven claims.
The media may hype the van der Zwaan sentencing as proof that Mueller is “working up to the head of the snake” as part of his quest to take down President Trump. But this sentencing has nothing to do with Trump, the 2016 election, or Russia.
It has now been close to a year since the Mueller special counsel commenced its investigation. There is still zero evidence of collusion, and the special counsel has become hopelessly detached from its original mandate to investigate Russian interference in the election.