June 24, 2018

Trump attorney discussed Flynn, Manafort pardons

29 March 2018, 01:45 | Simon Arnold

Rick Gates had Russian intelligence ties during 2016 campaign, prosecutors say

Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort departs from U.S. District Court

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied Wednesday that President Donald Trump's former lead attorney had raised the issue of pardons for former aides in the Russian Federation probe, as was reported by The New York Times. The conversation with Reginald Brown, who represented Manafort at the time, took place ahead of Manafort's indictment last October on charges of acting as an unregistered foreign agent and conspiring to launder money.

Did Robert Mueller just drop a hint that the probe on Russian collusion has some unhappy surprises for Donald Trump?

The revelation comes in a sentencing memorandum filed against Alex van der Zwaan, a London-based lawyer who pleaded guilty in February to lying to Mueller's investigators about his contacts with Gates and the ex-spy.

Legal experts were split on whether such a discussion would amount to obstruction of justice, even if Dowd broached the idea with Trump before talking to lawyers for Manafort and Flynn - a point that the New York Times said remained unclear. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Manafort's lawyers argue that Mueller lacks the authority to prosecute Manafort since the bulk of the allegations predate the 2016 presidential campaign and aren't directly linked to Russian Federation.

A spokesman for Manafort, who is prevented by a court-imposed gag order from talking to the media, declined to comment.

Van der Zwaan, 33, worked for Manafort and Gates while with the global law firm Skadden Arps. Flynn pleaded guilty in December to lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about his Russian contacts.

Rick Gates, the former aide, told an attorney for a US law firm that a Russian they worked with in Ukraine was a former military intelligence officer, according to the filing late Tuesday in Washington. The presidential election was in November 2016. In December, they said this associate was "a longtime Russian colleague. who is now based in Russia and assessed to have ties to a Russian intelligence service".

Reuters was not able to locate contact information for Kilimnik, and his whereabouts are unknown. Van der Zwaan said his last communication with Gates had been an "innocuous text message" in mid-August 2016 and that he hadn't spoken with Person A since 2014, when in reality he spoke with both Gates and Person A about the Tymoshenko report in September 2016 "and surreptitiously recorded the calls".

Kilimnik also acted as an intermediary between Manafort and Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The discussions between Dowd and lawyers for Manafort and Flynn indicated Trump's legal team was concerned about what the two former aides would reveal if they cut a deal with Mueller in exchange for leniency, according to the newspaper.

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