Tierney Sneed

Tierney Sneed is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked for U.S. News and World Report. She grew up in Florida and attended Georgetown University.

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From the way that Democratic state election officials have rushed to praise a federal elections agency commissioner who is being passed over for another term, you wouldn’t know that the commissioner originally was a Republican appointee.

But Speaker Paul Ryan’s apparent decision not to extend Matt Masterson’s tenure at the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission has been met with disappointment and outright anxiety from state election officials who worked with Masterson on a regular basis.

Masterson’s likely departure comes at a time when issues of cyber-security — issues that Masterson has made a focus of his work — are emerging as a top priority for the commission.

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With the 2018 primaries looming, the ongoing court battles over voting district maps in Pennsylvania and North Carolina continue to chug along.

In North Carolina, civil rights groups on Wednesday filed a new lawsuit in state court challenging the state House map in Wake county, which has four state House districts. The Supreme Court previously sided with Republicans in halting the implementation of a new map, drawn by court-appointed expert Nate Persily, in Wake and Mecklenburg counties. Voting rights advocates are now turning to state courts to request that Persily’s map be used in the 2018 election. The latest lawsuit comes after a state court rejected an effort — part of a separate lawsuit — to implement the Persily map. The new lawsuit alleges that lawmakers violated the state constitution by redrawing the districts in Wake mid-decade without a court order requiring them to do so. Typically districts are drawn every 10 years.

In Pennsylvania, Republicans last week turned to the Supreme Court yet again, their latest attempt to preserve a map that is gerrymandered in their favor through the 2018 election. Conservative Justice Samuel Alito already once rejected the GOP lawmakers’ request to intervene in their state’s redistricting battle, in which the state Supreme Court said Pennsylvania’s congressional map violated the state constitution and must be redrawn. The state GOP’s latest request to the U.S. Supreme Court, filed Wednesday evening, comes after Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) rejected a replacement map that Republicans had proposed, and after the court sought to adopt a map drawn by Persily (the court appointed expert here too) instead.

Beyond these incremental developments, there are a couple of long-term trends I am keeping my eye on. First: Concerns that the 2020 census will be used to tilt the next decade’s maps in Republicans’ favor. Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder penned an op-ed in The New Republic highlighting those concerns. He’s leading a group that more broadly is focused on drawing fairer maps in the next decade.

My colleague, Allegra Kirkland, meanwhile reported on a push by Republicans in Arizona to overhaul the independent commission that draws that state’s districts — a system that has been widely praised. The overhaul — which critics say would allow Republicans to inject more partisanship on the commission — will be a state ballot initiative if the GOP-dominated state legislature approves of it.

Finally, The Nation shed some light on another tactic that Republicans have been using in recent months: refusing to hold special elections for vacancies where Democrats have a good chance of winning seats that were previously held by Republicans.

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On the heels of revealing a new set of charges filed in Virginia against Paul Manafort and securing a plea deal from Manafort’s longtime business partner Rick Gates, Special Counsel Bob Mueller on Friday filed a new indictment — known as a superseding indictment — against Manafort that his grand jury in Washington, D.C. approved.

The new indictment contains five counts: conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading FARA statements, and false statements.

Much of the new indictment tracks with the charges that were brought in Virginia, as well as with the counts outlined in the plea deal that Gates agreed to Friday.

Prosecutors alleged that Manafort, with assistance from Gates, hid tens of millions of dollars they made lobbying Ukraine, to avoid paying taxes on it, according to the new indictment. The indictment reiterates allegations that Manafort failed to disclose, in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, the lobbying campaign he led in the U.S. on behalf of the pro-Russian Ukrainian political party he was advising.

The new indictment goes into more detail about a 2012 report Manafort spearheaded to justify the prosecution of a political rival of the Ukrainian politician Manafort represented; it references an unnamed law firm that Manafort recruited to write the reported, as well as a PR company, dubbed “Company C” that assisted with the rollout.

The law firm, it’s been reported, is Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. A lawyer from that firm this week pleaded guilty to lying to Mueller’s team about his conversations with Gates.

The indictment also details a part of an alleged lobbying scheme that previously had been referenced in the filings related to Gates’ plea deal. Prosecutors allege that Manafort assembled and paid, via his offshore accounts, a group of former European politicians to “informally” lobby on Ukraine’s behalf but “without any visible relationship with the Government of Ukraine,” quoting a memo that Manafort is said to have written in 2012.

The group was informally called the “Hapsburg group” and Manafort allegedly used four offshore accounts to pay the former politicians 2 million euros.


The indictment was handed down by a grand jury last week, but only unsealed Friday. In the motion to unseal it Friday afternoon, Mueller said that “the cause for sealing the indictment” had become “moot.” U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson approved of its unsealing quickly after the unsealing motion because public Friday.

Earlier Friday, Gates entered a guilty plea to two counts brought by Mueller: conspiracy against the U.S. and false statements to federal authorities. As part of his plea agreement, Gates agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation. The plea agreement said that Gates “agrees to testify at any proceeding” as requested by Mueller.

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Rick Gates, a former campaign aide to President Trump, pleaded guilty to two counts  — conspiracy against the U.S. and false statements to federal authorities — in a federal courtroom Friday at a hearing that suggested Special Counsel Robert Mueller was expecting months of cooperation from Gates as part of the plea deal.

At the hearing, Andrew Weissmann, one of the attorneys representing the special counsel’s office, said that they would prefer not to set a sentencing date for Gates yet, and were seeking a status conference in three to four months instead. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson set a deadline for a status report for May 14.

The conviction of Gates is part of Mueller’s Russia probe. Gates — along with his longtime business partner, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort —had first been indicted by Mueller in Octoberin Washington, and a second indictment against them in Virginia became public on Thursday.  Manafort, in a statement Friday via his spokesman, said he was maintaining his innocence.

At Gates’ plea hearing, the judge floated that the sentencing guidelines would likely recommend Gates serve between 57 and 71 months in prison, and pay a $20,000 to $200,000 fine. Jackson cautioned, however, that she may ultimately stray from those recommendations.

That estimated sentence also did not reflect whatever cooperation Gates offers Mueller’s team. Weissmann confirmed that the government had agreed to consider filing a motion at the time of sentencing based on Gates’ level of cooperation.

Additionally, Gates’ lawyer Tom Green indicated that they were reserving the right to argue that the sentence be less because of the “disproportionate conduct” between Manafort and Gates.

A copy of the plea agreement handed out to reporters at the courthouse said that Gates “shall cooperate fully, truthfully, completely, and forthrightly” with Mueller. That cooperation includes the potential that Gates would testify at proceedings at Mueller’s request.

At the hearing Weissmann, along with another member of Mueller’s team, Greg Andres walked through a statement of offense that was among the documents given to reporters after the hearing. (A third Mueller team attorney, Kyle Freeny, was also present.)

The statement of offense said that Gates assisted Manafort in wiring “millions of dollars” from offshore accounts for goods, services and real eastate without Manafort paying taxes on it. Gates “repeatedly misled” Manafort’s tax accountants with Manafort’s knowledge, according to the statement of offense. The document also outlined Gates’ involvement in a lobbying campaign for Ukraine in the U.S. that he failed to properly register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

According to the document, the false statement count stemmed from a February 1, 2018 proffer session between Gates, his attorney and the special counsel’s office. (At the hearing, Gates confirmed that his original team of lawyers, who were only allowed to withdraw from his representation Thursday, were not involved in the plea negotiations.)

Gates misled authorities during the interview by telling them that he had been told that Manafort, an unnamed lobbyist and an unnamed member of Congress did not discuss Ukraine at a March 2013 meeting, according to the document. Green, at the hearing, stressed that Gates did not know what had been discussed, and that the misrepresentation he was admitting to was saying that he had been told Ukraine wasn’t discussed.

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Rick Gates pleaded guilty in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, and is now expected to cooperate. The latest development in the quickening Mueller probe is a blow to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Gates’ mentor and co-defendant in separate criminal cases in Washington, D.C., and Virginia.

Gates’ cooperation with Mueller could also spell trouble for Trump. Gates outlasted Manafort on Trump’s campaign, serving as its liaison to the Republican National Committee in the fall of 2016 after Manafort was ousted in August. After the election Gates continued to work with figures in Trump’s inner circle: he served on the Trump inaugural committee and as late as last summer, was spotted in the White House tagging along with Tom Barrack, Trump’s good friend, for whom Gates by that time was working.

On Friday, just after noon, Mueller filed a document signaling that he and Gates had reached a plea deal. Soon after, the judge overseeing Gates and Manafort’s case, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, scheduled a plea hearing for 2 p.m. ET at the federal courthouse in D.C. It cames after reports Friday morning that Gates had decided to plead guilty in a deal with Mueller.

The filing by Mueller outlined two counts that prosecutors were bringing against Gates in a “superseding information.” An information typically precedes a plea agreement. Those charges are significantly less than what was in the earlier indictments filed against Gates, suggesting that it is a precursor to Gates pleading guilty in an agreement with Mueller.

The first count is conspiracy against the United States. The second count is for making a false statement. Remarkably the alleged false statement was made by Gates to the Special Counsel’s Office and the FBI on Feb. 1, months after the original indictment was issued, according to the information. That suggests Gates lied in the course of plea negotiations. His lawyers moved to withdraw from the case the same day.

Gates’ apparent decision to cooperate with Mueller followed an unexpected and dramatic path, including a drawn-out effort to switch up his legal team and a new set of charges filed by Mueller that were revealed Thursday evening.

Gates and Manafort, longtime business partners, were first charged with financial crimes and failure to disclose foreign lobbying last October — charges to which they both originally pleaded not guilty.

Those and the more recent charges mainly stemmed from their lobbying work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine prior to working for Trump, as well as from more recent efforts to allegedly defraud banks and pump up loans once their Ukraine project dried up. Gates allegedly assisted Manafort in laundering $30 million, according to the indictments brought by Mueller

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Rick Gates is expected to come to a plea deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, two sources told the New York Times. Gates could enter a guilty plea as soon as Friday, the Times reported.

ABC News also reported Friday that Gates was poised to reach a deal with Mueller.

Gates, a former Trump campaign advisor, was hit with a second indictment from Mueller Thursday, after an initial round of charges were filed in October. He and his longtime business partner, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, have been charged with an assortment of financial crimes, including bank fraud, as well as with failure to disclose foreign lobbying related to work they did for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine. Both men pleaded not guilty when the charges were brought in October.

For weeks it had been rumored that Gates was in plea negotiations with Mueller, particularly after CNN reported he had quietly hired a new attorney, Tom Green, to help hammer out the deal. However, Gates’ effort to formally switch up his legal team has dragged on for nearly a month, after a motion from his original team of lawyers to withdraw from representing him prompted a mysterious back-and-forth in sealed court filings and in private hearings.  Only Thursday did a judge approve of the original attorneys’ move to withdraw, after Green formally entered the case on its public docket and filed for Gates a motion saying he did not oppose them withdrawing. Adding to the confusion was that the Daily Beast reported just before the filings that Gates had fired Green.

According to ABC News, Gates for weeks has been indecisive as to whether he was willing to plead guilty, and even this week it was not clear whether he would come to an agreement with Mueller.

The network obtained a letter Gates wrote to family and close friends explaining his decision, in which he said “despite my initial desire to vigorously defend myself, I have had a change of heart.”

“The reality of how long this legal process will likely take, the cost, and the circus-like atmosphere of an anticipated trial are too much. I will better serve my family moving forward by exiting this process,” Gates’ letter continued, according to ABC News. Gates is the father of young children.

“The consequence is the public humiliation, which at this moment seems like a small price to pay for what our children would have to endure otherwise,” Gates’ letter said, according to ABC News.

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Special Counsel Robert Mueller has announced a new indictment against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former campaign aide Rick Gates.

In a court document filed in the case Mueller previously brought against Manafort and Gates in Washington D.C., prosecutors indicated that a 32-count indictment had been filed against two men in the Eastern District of Virginia, with a copy of thenew indictment attached.

The new charges include making false statement on tax returns, failure to report foreign bank and financial accounts, and bank fraud.

The indictment alleges that Gates and Manafort avoided paying taxes on money they earned lobbying in Ukraine by funneling it through real estate, contractors and in other payments, and even disguising it as loans. Later on, when their Ukraine project dried up — because their client, Victor Yanukovych had fled to Russia — Manafort, with help from Gates, used his real estate properties, as well as falsified income statement to extract more money through loans, the indictment alleged. In seeking some of those loans, some as recent as in 2017, Manafort allegedly misled bankers through falsified documents and other means to pump up the loans, according to the indictment.

“Manafort and Gates fraudulently secured more than twenty million dollars in loans by falsely inflating Manafort’s and his company’s income and by failing to disclose existing debt in order to qualify for the loans,” the indictment said.

Their scheme allegedly involved the use of offshore accounts, and included misleading their tax preparers, the indictment said. It alleged that more $75 million flowed through the offshore accounts and that $30 million was laundered by Manafort with assistance from Gates.

Not long after the new indictment dropped, the Daily Beast reported that Gates had fired Tom Green, an attorney who was believed to be working on a plea deal with Mueller. About an hour later, however, a document was filed in Gates’ case officially adding Green to his representation. Green then filed a motion on Gates’ behalf saying that Gates did not opposed his old legal team’s move to withdraw from the case. The judge then approved of the old team withdrawing.

Some of the new charges relate to transactions that were also singled out in the indictment Mueller brought against Manafort and Gates in late October. The new indictment alleges that money that funneled out of foreign accounts connected to Manafort was disguised as loans, rather than income, and that he did not pay taxes on it. He also allegedly did not pay taxes on money that was wired out of foreign accounts to purchase real estate, pay contractors renovating his homes and on car payments, according to the indictment.

Manafort and Gates are both accused of failing to report to the U.S. Treasury the foreign banks account they allegedly controlled, according to the indictment.

The indictment details that Manafort and Gates allegedly misled lenders and inflated their incomes to secure loans.

In one instance, Manafort allegedly represented to a bank that his daughter and son-in-law were living in a condominium he owns in New York as a way of securing a greater loan, even as he was using it as an AirBnB rental, according to the indictment.

For other loans with other banks, Manafort and Gates allegedly doctored income statements from their consulting firm DMI, the prosecutors said. The indictment references another unnamed “conspirator” working at a bank where Manafort sought a loan.


Read the court filing below:

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Loans amounting up to $16 million that Paul Manafort received from a bank run by a Trump campaign economic adviser are getting scrutiny from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is interested in whether Manafort promised the banker a White House job in exchange for the loans, NBC News reported Wednesday.

The banker, Steve Calk, president of Federal Savings Bank in Chicago, sat on the Trump campaign’s economic advisory council — a position that was announced in August 2016, while Manafort was chairman of the campaign. Manafort was ousted from the campaign not long after.  He and his wife went on to secure three separate loans from the bank in late 2016 and early 2017.

References to those loans have popped up in recent court filings related to the negotiations over Manafort’s bail proposal, which involves properties he had put up as collateral for the FSB loans. The filings, coupled with NBC News’ recent reporting, suggest that Mueller is digging deeper into aspects of Manafort’s personal finances—and one of his key lenders— that to this point have been peripheral to the main case.

“The government has secured substantial evidence that Manafort secured this mortgage from The Federal Savings Bank through a series of false and fraudulent representations to The Federal Savings Bank,” Mueller said in a filing last week.

NBC News, citing two sources, said that federal investigators are investigating a possible “quid pro quo” deal between Manafort and Calk, including an offer of a White House gig. Calk did not ultimately get a job in the current administration. His spokesman did not return NBC News’ inquiries, nor did the bank’s PR firm.

Three sources told NBC News that other bank employees were skeptical of the loans to Manafort, and one source revealed that investigators have gotten at least one former employee to cooperate with the probe.

The White House did not comment to NBC News on whether Manafort had sought a position in Trump’s cabinet for Calk. Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni pointed NBC News to a previous statement he gave on Manafort’s loans.

Scrutiny of the loans began last year as the various investigations into Manafort’s finances were heating up. As other outlets noted at the time, the $16 million in loans were huge for a bank of such a relatively small size. They amounted to nearly 24 percent of the bank’s reported $67 million of equity capital and 5.4 percent of the bank’s total assets.

In July, it was reported that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance had subpoenaed the bank for records related to the Manafort loans.

In late October — right after Mueller dropped an indictment charging Manafort with various financial crimes, among other things —  a local Chicago CBS affiliate reported that Calk was speaking to the FBI.

Manafort has pleaded not guilty to the charges, which also include failure to disclose foreign lobbying.

In filings with the FDIC that were posted publicly in late January, the bank reported a $12 million loss in the 4th quarter of 2017. It was not explicitly clear whether the loss was related to the loans to Manafort. The loss is listed as being off of “commercial and industrial loans.”

Meanwhile, the negotiations around Manafort’s proposed bail package have dragged on, with much of the back-and-forth taking place under seal. Some of the related filings were unsealed on Friday.

In them, Mueller argued that Manafort’s bail proposal is “deficient” due to “additional criminal conduct” prosecutors have learned of since the initial bail determination.

“That criminal conduct includes a series of bank frauds and bank fraud conspiracies, including criminal conduct relating to the mortgage on the Fairfax property, which Manafort seeks to pledge,” Mueller said, adding that Manafort secured the mortgage through a “a series of false and fraudulent representations” to Federal Savings Bank.

“For example, Manafort provided the bank with doctored profit and loss statements for DMP International LLC for both 2015 and 2016, overstating its income by millions of dollars. At the next bail hearing, we can proffer to the Court additional evidence related to this and the other bank frauds and conspiracies,” Mueller said.



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A former lawyer for a major U.S. law firm pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court in Washington D.C., to lying to federal authorities in a case that is part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s wide-ranging Russia probe.

The guilty plea by Alex van der Zwaan, who worked at the firm Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLC until he was terminated in November, came as part of a plea agreement between Mueller’s team. The case is being overseen by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is also overseeing Mueller’s cases against former Trump campaign aides Paul Manafort and Rick Gates.

Manafort, a former Trump campaign chairman, and Gates, his deputy who also worked for the campaign, pleaded not guilty last October to charges brought by Mueller related to their work in Ukraine for a pro-Russian political party. Skadden was recruited by Manafort to write a 2012 report justifying the Ukrainian government’s prosecution and conviction of Yulia Tymoshenko, a political rival of Viktor Yanukovych, whom Manafort was advising.

Van der Zwaan pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about his communications with Rick Gates and an unidentified third person known as “person A”.

Van der Zwaan was questioned by investigators on Nov. 3, 2017, about conversations he had with Gates and a “Person A” in the fall of 2016.

At Tuesday’s plea hearing, Andrew Weissmann, a prosecutor on Mueller’s team, broadly described van der Zwaan’s communications with Gates and “Person A,” as well as what he told federal investigators about those communications last year.

“Person A” was described by Weissmann as someone who spoke Russian and who was located in Ukraine. Gates, “Person A” and van der Zwaan worked together on the rollout of the 2012 Tymoshenko report, Weissmann said.

FBI agents and prosecutors interviewed van der Zwaan under oath at the special counsel’s office in November, as part of Mueller’s investigation into Manafort and Gates’ alleged Foreign Agents Registration Act violations.   Van der Zwaan told them that the most recent communication he had with Gates was an “innocuous” conversation in August 2016 and that he hadn’t communicated with “Person A” since 2014, when in fact, according to Weissmann he spoke to them both in September 2016.

A statement of offense that was released to the public after the hearing said that Gates called van der Zwaan in September 2016 to tell him to contact “Person A.” Gates also sent the lawyer documents that included a “preliminary criminal complaint in Ukraine,” using the encryption service Viber, according to the court filing. Van der Zwaan called “Person A” to discuss in Russian the potential for charges to be brought against Skadden and Manafort — a call that the lawyer recorded, according to the court filing. He then called a senior partner who worked on the 2012 report — a call he “partially recorded,” according to the filings — and also called Gates. Van der Zwaan recorded the Gates call and took notes on all of the calls, according to the statement of offense.

During his November 2016 interview, Van der Zwaan was also asked about an email “Person A” sent him in Russian, that, according to Weissmann, was not handed over to his law firm to produce for Mueller’s team. Van der Zwaan told investigators he did not know why that email wasn’t produced and that he didn’t respond to it, according to Weissmman. Van der Zwaan “knew full well” that he had not produced it and that he destroyed that and other emails, Weissmann said.

Van der Zwaan is 33 years old and the son-in-law of Ukrainian-Russian billionaire German Khan. Born in Brussels, he obtained a law degree in Britain and is now a Dutch citizen.

As part of the plea hearing, van der Zwaan indicated that he and Mueller had come to an agreement on recommending that he face zero to six months of jail time, and a fine between $500-$9,500 as part of his plea. Judge Amy Berman Jackson reminded him that there’s no guarantee that that will be his ultimate sentence.

It was also revealed during the hearing the van der Zwaan’s wife was dealing with a difficult pregnancy, with his attorneys asking that they expedite his sentencing hearing. Jackson set the sentencing hearing for the morning of April 3. In the meantime, his travel is restricted to the Washington, D.C.-area and to Manhattan, where his lawyers are located. His passport has been handed over to the FBI, and he will need to get court approval for any other travel within the continental United States.


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Updated at 1:27 p.m. ET

In a surprise development, a lawyer who worked at the firm that produced a report for Paul Manafort’s Ukrainian lobbying campaign has been charged with lying to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team. The charges were revealed in court documents filed on Friday that became public on Tuesday.

The lawyer, Alex Van Der Zwaan “willfully and knowingly” made “materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements and representations” to the investigators about his conversations with Manafort deputy Rick Gates and an unnamed third person, prosecutors alleged in the new court filings.

A plea agreement hearing is schedule for 2:30 p.m. ET in federal court in Washington, D.C., where Van Der Zwaan is expected to plead guilty.

Zwaan —who according to the Kyiv Post is based in London and is the son-in-law of Russian oligarch German Khan — spoke to investigators on Nov. 3, just a few days after Mueller’s indictments against Manafort and Gates became public, the court documents said. Before Tuesday’s revelation, Zwaan’s name has come up only peripherally in connection with the Manafort-Gates case.

Gates and Manafort have both been charged by Mueller for failure to disclose the Ukrainian lobbying work, among other things. They have both pleaded not guilty.

Zwaan’s firm’s Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLC was behind a 2012 report that sought to justify the Ukrainian government’s prosecution and conviction of Yulia Tymoshenko, the former prime minister of Ukraine. Manafort, who went on to serve as President Trump’s campaign chairman, recruited the firm to produce the report while he was advising Viktor Yanukovych, a pro-Russian Ukrainian politician.

It was reported in September that Mueller was interested in Skadden’s involvement in the report. “The firm terminated its employment of Alex van der Zwaan in 2017 and has been cooperating with authorities in connection with this matter,” Skadden said in a statement released Tuesday.

Zwaan allegedly told investigators he last spoke to Gates in August 2016, when he in fact spoke to Gates a month later, prosecutors said in the filings. The September conversations also involved a person dubbed by Mueller as “Person A,” according to the court documents. Zwaan “surreptitiously recorded” the phone calls, the prosecutors alleged.

Zwaan allegedly also misled investigators about a September 2016 email between him and “Person A,” according to the court documents. He allegedly told investigators he did not know why the email was not produced for Mueller’s team, the court document said. Prosecutors alleged that Zwaan deleted and otherwise did not produce that and other emails.

Read the filing below:

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