New court documents filed Tuesday night directly connect Rick Gates, a former Trump campaign deputy chairman, to an operative with ties to Russia's military intelligence unit. Gates spent a decade working for Paul Manafort, the indicted former Trump campaign chairman, as a political consultant in Ukraine.
Fourth, the lies and withholding of documents were material to the Special Counsel's Office's investigation.
Mueller's team made the revelation in a sentencing document against lawyer Alex van der Zwaan, who pleaded guilty in February to lying to investigators in the Russian Federation probe.
These new details were revealed in a court filing about the upcoming sentencing of Alex van der Zwaan, a Dutch lawyer who worked with Gates and Manafort.
"The defendant was expressly warned by the government that it is a crime to lie to the Special Counsel's Office, that lying could constitute a federal crime, and that such conduct would carry with it the possibility of going to jail if he were convicted. van der Zwaan stated that he understood".
Three days after van der Zwaan's guilty plea, Gates flipped his plea, admitted financial fraud and lying to investigators, and began cooperating with Mueller.
Tuesday's filing from Mueller's office says it was "pertinent to the investigation" that "Gates and Person A were directly communicating in September and October 2016".
The allegations raised in the memo marked the latest development in the special counsel's investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential contest.
The Mueller probe revealed that Manafort had Russian intelligence ties previous year (paywall), but the facts that Gates knew the same person-and remained in contact with him after Manafort's firing-had not previously been disclosed. He didn't produce an email that referred to the 2016 communications, as well as emails that would have revealed he was exploring options for leaving Skadden to work with Manafort and Gates. Gates and Manafort secretly funneled $4 million through offshore accounts to pay for the report, prosecutors said.
The identity of Person A is unclear. In February 2017, he told The New York Times he had "never knowingly spoken to Russian intelligence officers, and I have never been involved with anything to do with the Russian government of the Putin administration or any other issues under investigation today".
Mueller's office in December accused Manafort of working with Kilimnik to help ghostwrite an op-ed article past year about his consulting work in Ukraine.
What you need to know about Paul Manafort's ties to Russian Federation.
In exchange for the guilty plea, Mueller's office agreed not to pursue charges against van der Zwaan in connection with any other false statements he made in November or December 2017, destruction of documents or evidence, or violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act - which requires individuals who lobby on behalf of foreign entities to register with the United States government - in connection with his work for the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice.
The op-ed article was submitted to the Kyiv Post, an English-language Ukrainian media outlet, which declined to publish it. Brian Bonner, the editor, told Bloomberg it was "highly suspicious" and "blatantly pro-Manafort". Mueller is now apparently directly disputing that using Gates's own words.
Mueller's latest court filing - and more that come out of van der Zwaan's case - could help shed light on whether Person A was Kilimnik, and whether Manafort, as one of the highest-ranking members of the Trump campaign, knew that Person A was tied to Russian intelligence.
Manafort has pleaded not guilty to charges in two indictments filed by Mueller's office.
Gates pleaded guilty last month to conspiracy and making false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.