Former Skadden solicitor pardoned by President Trump

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By Legal Cheek on

The King’s College London law grad was charged with making false statements in connection with the Mueller investigation

Among the recent wave of those to receive a presidential pardon from Trump is a former associate at the London office of US law firm Skadden.

Alex van der Zwaan, who worked at the London office of US law firm Skadden where he specialised in litigation, congressional investigations and government policy, was the first to be formally convicted back in 2018 under the Mueller inquiry, an investigation into alleged collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign team. During the investigation, the Dutch national pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to investigators. This resulted in a sentence of 30 days’ imprisonment and a fine of $20,000 (£14,000).

In a statement about the pardon, the White House said:

“Today, President Trump granted a full pardon to Alex van der Zwaan. His pardon is supported by former Rep. Trey Gowdy.

“Mr. van der Zwaan was charged with a process-related crime, one count of making false statements, in connection with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. None of his underlying conduct was alleged to have been unlawful, nor did prosecutors note any prior criminal history. Mr. van der Zwaan is a Dutch national who voluntarily returned to the United States to correct his statements and surrendered his passport upon entry.”

van der Zwaan graduated in law from Kings College London before completing the Legal Practice Course at BPP Law School. He then joined Skadden in 2007. By 2012 he was working on a politically sensitive report for the government of Ukraine, a Skadden client.

The work drew the Russian-speaking solicitor into the world of Ukrainian politics, which bled into the Mueller investigation. van der Zwaan worked with Mueller targets Rick Gates and Paul Manafort. When the activities of Gates and Manafort attracted Mueller’s interest, FBI investigators sat down for an eight-hour grilling with van der Zwaan about his work with them.

According to an agreed statement of facts put before the disciplinary tribunal, van der Zwaan tried to cover up relevant calls and emails “to ensure Skadden did not find out about the communication concerning his prospective employment with Mr Gates and Mr Manafort”. He also failed to produce an email sent to him by Manafort associate Konstantine Kilimnik, a former Russian intelligence officer. When this came out, van der Zwaan was prosecuted for providing false information to the FBI and Skadden sacked him for gross misconduct.

In 2019, van der Zwaan was struck off the Roll of Solicitors. The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) ruled that the former Skadden solicitor had failed to uphold the rule of law and act with integrity, as required by professional rules.

In mitigation, Mr van der Zwaan said he quickly regretted what he had done and sought to put it right, coming forward himself voluntarily to correct what he had stated, which is what led to his conviction. He added that the incorrect answers had brought him no benefit and provided testimonials to show his actions were “completely out of character”. He also outlined personal mitigation, including his new wife “finding it hard to cope with his continuous and prolonged absences from home due to the demands placed upon him by his work”.

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