Very, Very Good Point

Very good point about that van der Zwaan sentencing document from TPM Reader JO

Beyond the connection to “Person A”, what seems most notable about the van der Zwaan pleading is that he refused to cooperate with Mueller. Unlike Gates, who agreed to cooperate with Mueller in exchange for lenience, van der Zwaan has simply pled guilty. This is why Mueller’s sentencing document is so harsh.

As a white collar attorney who could potentially do hard time in prison, there seems no reason – on the surface – why this man would not cooperate with Mueller in order to avoid jail time. But of course there is a reason: his father in law the Russian oligarch. Clearly, van der Zwaan is in a position to know a lot more about the Russian influence operation than a typical American attorney.

As you say, there is a lot of circumstantial evidence suggesting that Paul Manafort was acting in some respect as a Russian agent in 2016. I think it is fair to say that van der Zwaan, by proximity to his father-in-law, was likely working towards Russian ends as well.

What do Manafort and van der Zwaan have in common? They both refuse to cooperate with Mueller. It’s not hard to see why, given the very public assassination attempts against Kremlin opponents of late. It’s almost as if Putin is trying to send a message to any who would take a public position against Moscow. For van der Zwaan, the choice is not so hard. Yes, prison is likely to be very, very difficult for him. But when he gets out – and we can say with confidence that he will get out – his father in law is in a position to take care of him financially. Compared to death by poison and financial ruin, a few years in the federal prison should be manageable for van der Zwaan. The choice is not so easy for Manafort, of course. He faces a potential life sentence, and no real financial rescue package if he ever emerges from prison.

Last thought: one reason Mueller is going after van der Zwaan so hard on the sentencing is to send a message to Manafort. If they obtain a multi-year sentence against van der Zwaan for pleading guilty to far less serious crimes, that should give Manafort a lot to think about in terms of cooperating…