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Attorney Alex van der Zwaan, first person sentenced in Mueller probe, gets 30 days in prison

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Judge Amy Berman Jackson said van der Zwaan’s false statements were not an incidental mistake but a knowing lie during an investigation of international importance. She said she took into account that he is an attorney and should have known better.

Jackson said the sentence was intended to “reflect the seriousness of the offense, promote respect for the law” and reduce sentencing disparities.

“This is not something that happened to him. This is something he did,” she said. “He put is personal interests ahead of the interests of justice.”

William Schwartz, a lawyer for van der Zwaan, urged the judge not to sentence him to prison time so he could return to London where his wife is in the midst of a difficult pregnancy and expecting their first child in August.

Prosecutors said van der Zwaan had lied to federal agents and covered it up, trying to destroy emails. They had asked that he be sentenced to some time behind bars as a “general deterrent” but did not make a specific recommendation on length.

The van der Zwaan case did not involve Mueller’s central mission of examining potential help for Russian election meddling in 2016. Instead, it grew out of the investigation of Gates and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort over work they did in Ukraine more than a decade ago.

Prosecuting van der Zwaan was more likely intended to send a message that Mueller’s team would move aggressively against anyone who tried to obstruct their investigation rather than to enlist van der Zwaan’s help. The terms of his plea do not require him to cooperate with prosecutors.

Ty Cobb, President Donald Trump’s lawyer who handles the Russia matter, declined Tuesday to comment on the van der Zwaan sentencing.

As a lawyer in an international law firm, van der Zwaan worked with Gates and Manafort for a Ukrainian political party closely aligned with Russia. The law firm, Skadden, Arps, Meagher & Flom, was hired by the government of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in 2012 to examine the prosecution of one of his former political rivals.

The firm’s work was supposed to be independent of the lobbying by Manafort and Gates, but van der Zwaan leaked a copy of the report and talking points to Gates and lied about later conversations in 2016 with Gates about how the firm was paid and potential criminal charges against the firm in Ukraine.

Mueller’s team has separately charged Gates and Manafort with illegally hiding millions of dollars they earned doing work in Ukraine. Gates has pleaded guilty but no sentencing date has been set; Manafort faces trial in early July.

Van der Zwaan’s lawyers had noted that two weeks after making the false statements, he returned to the U.S. to meet with Mueller’s team again to correct the record. When he had lied the first time, they said, he was not trying to impede the investigation but instead wanted to prevent his law firm from discovering he had misled his supervisors about his contact with Gates.

Before pronouncing sentence, Jackson said van der Zwaan’s “expressions of remorse were muted,” noting that while some members of his family wrote to the judge to urge leniency, he did not. Nor, the judge said, did he make any effort to preform community service while in the U.S. awaiting sentencing.

Van der Zwaan’s father-in-law, German Khan, is a prominent Russian billionaire.

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Boris Johnson urged to punish EU if Brussels miss trade deal deadline – 'Enough is enough'

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THE EU has still not ratified the post-Brexit trade deal agreed with the UK as MEPs refuse to name a date for a vote to take place before the April 30 deadline set by Downing Street. And Boris Johnson has been urged to punish the bloc if they miss the deadline.

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Hard-right Republicans forming new caucus to protect ‘Anglo-Saxon political traditions’

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WASHINGTON — A group of ultra-conservative House Republicans, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, are discussing launching an “America First Caucus” that would protect “Anglo-Saxon political traditions.”

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, told reporters on Friday that he’s “looking at” joining.

“There is an America First Caucus,” he said, confirming that Greene is involved.

The formation of a caucus could be another sign of an emboldened faction of House Republicans who are known for nativist ideas and have been criticized by Democrats as racist.

A seven-page organizing document that includes the group’s name and a logo, first reported by Punchbowl News, says: “America is a nation with a border, and a culture, strengthened by a common respect for uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions.”

It adds that “societal trust and political unity are threatened when foreign citizens are imported en-masse into a country, particularly without institutional support for assimilation and an expansive welfare state to bail them out should they fail to contribute positively to the country.”

The document also backs infrastructure projects — a topic currently being debated in Congress — as long as they befit “the progeny of European architecture, whereby public infrastructure must be utilitarian as well as stunningly, classically beautiful, befitting a world power and source of freedom.”

Greene spokesman Nick Dyer confirmed that a platform is being written but complained about “dirty backstabbing swamp creatures” who leaked the document, and did not confirm or deny its authenticity.

“Be on the look out for the release of the America First Caucus platform when it’s announced to the public very soon,” Dyer said.

Gohmert said the group will focus on issues, “that will sustain us for the future,” but added that he hadn’t seen the platform language about Anglo-Saxon traditions.

“It’s not supposed to be about race at all. We’re stronger as diversified. But there are some things that help make us strong. Slavery nearly destroyed us,” he said.

He compared it to putting on one’s mask on an airplane before helping others: “If we let our country go without taking care of America and making sure we’re viable for the future, then we’re not going to be in a position to help the other countries.”

The term “America First” was used as a campaign slogan by former President Donald Trump, but received criticism because it was also used during World War II by those who opposed intervention in Europe to help stop German advances, even amid reports that Nazis were committing genocide against Jewish people.

Greene has advocated for extreme positions and dangerous conspiracy theories, including the QAnon conspiracy movement. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has condemned her for spreading “loony lies” and the Democratic-controlled House removed her from committees in February.

Punchbowl News reported that Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., is also involved with the group. His office didn’t return a request for comment.

Rep. Barry Moore, R-Ala., was reported as a potential recruit.

His office said Moore “will not agree to join any caucus until he’s had an opportunity to research their platform, which he has not had the chance to do so with the America First Caucus and therefore has not joined.”



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Keir Starmer's Labour Party plummets as Boris Johnson doubles lead in new poll

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THE TORIES have doubled their lead over Labour in the latest YouGov poll as Boris Johnson’s party continues to enjoy favourable ratings thanks to the huge success of the Covid vaccine rollout.

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