Mueller: Gates associate had Russian spy links

Lies, Pleas and Indictment Heat

Former Trump campaign official Rick Gates had repeated contact with someone tied to Russian intelligence during the 2016 election campaign, according to prosecutors.

"Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agents assisting the Special Counsel's Office assess that Person A has ties to a Russian intelligence service and had such ties in 2016", the memorandum says, adding that "van der Zwaan admitted that he knew of that connection, stating that Gates told him Person A was a former Russian Intelligence Officer with the GRU", the Russian military intelligence service. Despite the fact that Gates and Manafort knew that this business associate had ties to the Kremlin, they still made a decision to form a working relationship with the associate during October of 2016, mere weeks before the election.

While the President's legal team denies the notion that a pardon was ever discussed, the New York Times has been told that the possibility of a pardon for both Manafort and Michael Flynn was indeed floated by the President's lawyers a year ago. But the court document says Gates told an associate that "Person A" was "a former Russian intelligence officer with the G.R.U.", the Russian military intelligence agency.

Gates pleaded guilty last month to lying to the FBI and conspiring to defraud the United States, and has agreed to cooperate with Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and whether there was any collusion with Moscow by Trump's campaign. He also revealed that before getting involved with Manafort and Gates in 2005, he worked for the International Republican Institute, a US-funded "democracy promotion" outfit whose board of directors is now chaired by Senator John McCain (R-Arizona).

His reported knowledge of "Person A" came from Alexander van der Zwaan, the son-in-law of a Russian oligarch who was a lawyer at megafirm Skadden, Arps, Slate Meagher & Flom. Van der Zwaan, who is now cooperating with the special counsel, is alleged to have withheld and destroyed documents relating to his communications with Manafort, Gates, and Person A, as well as lying to the special counsel about them. He will be the first person sentenced in the Mueller probe on April 3rd. In the RFE interview, however, the dual citizen of Russian Federation and Ukraine denied any connections to intelligence agencies.

Al Jazeera's Patty Culhane reports from Washington. This is income Manafort is accused of not reporting to the Treasury Department.

The description of Person A that Mueller gives appears to match that of Konstantin V. Kilimnik, who worked as Manafort's right-hand man for years in the Ukraine, the New York Times reports.

It said an investigation by Ukrainian prosecutors into Kilimnik's possible links to Russian spy agencies was closed late past year without charges.

The original charges filed against Gates and Manafort in October alleged conspiracy to launder money and making false statements.

The Trump attorney, John Dowd, who recently resigned from Trump's legal team, denied any discussions about pardons.

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