WASHINGTON (AP) - The special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election has charged an attorney with lying to federal investigators about his interactions with a former Trump campaign official, according to court papers made public Tuesday.
Alex van der Zwaan, who worked at the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom until he was fired last year, appeared at court later Tuesday at a plea hearing.
The charge does not involve election meddling or relate to the Trump campaign’s operations. It stems from a part of the special counsel’s investigation into Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chair, and Rick Gates, a former campaign aide and longtime business associate of Manafort.
Manafort and Gates are accused of directing a covert Washington lobbying campaign on behalf of pro-Russian Ukrainian interests. The lobbying effort was part of political consulting work that Manafort and Gates carried out before they joined the Trump campaign.
Gates and Manafort were indicted last year and accused of conspiring to launder millions of dollars they earned from political consulting work in Ukraine. Both have pleaded not guilty.
Van der Zwaan is accused of lying to investigators about his interactions with Gates during an interview with the FBI late last year, according to the charging document filed in federal court in Washington. David Mills and Laura Grossfield Birger, attorneys for van der Zwaan, did not immediately return email and phone messages Tuesday afternoon.
Van der Zwaan’s plea hearing Tuesday comes on the heels of an extraordinary indictment from special counsel Robert Mueller last week that charged 13 Russian individuals and three Russian companies in a hidden social media effort to meddle in the 2016 U.S. presidential election by denigrating Democrat Hillary Clinton and boosting the chances of Trump.