WASHINGTON - A London-based Dutch attorney was given a 30-day prison sentence and fined $20,000 Tuesday for lying to U.S. investigators probing Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The lawyer, Alex van der Zwaan, had pleaded guilty in February to lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about his contacts with a business associate of Paul Manafort, the one-time campaign manager of U.S. President Donald Trump, and Manafort's deputy, Rick Gates, and destroying emails sought by investigators.
The 33-year-old attorney, a son-in-law of a prominent Russian banker, was the first person sentenced in the months-long investigation of the Russian meddling in the election led by special counsel Robert Mueller. Van der Zwaan is not considered a key figure in the probe, but court documents in his case showed Mueller's continued interest in pursuing information about Manafort's and Gates's involvement in the Trump campaign.
"What I did was wrong," van der Zwaan said in a Washington court. "I apologize to the court for my conduct. I apologize to my wife and to my family for the pain I have caused."
Manafort has not been charged with any crimes related to the presidential contest, but faces multiple counts accusing him of criminal wrongdoing in connection with years of lobbying efforts in Ukraine for one-time Ukrainian strongman Viktor Yanukovych, who was toppled in a popular uprising in 2014 before fleeing to exile in Russia. Manafort has pleaded not guilty.
Gates, in February, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and lying to investigators. He is cooperating with Mueller's ongoing probe investigating whether Trump campaign officials colluded with Russians to help Trump win the election and whether Trump obstructed justice to thwart the investigation.
The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Mueller told Trump's lawyers last month that he does not consider the president to be a criminal target at this point in his investigation.
But Mueller also said that he still considers Trump to be a subject of his investigation into Russia's role in the 2016 presidential election and emphasized the need to interview the president as part of the probe. The special counsel made the disclosures to Trump's lawyers last month during negotiations over a possible interview with the president.