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  • ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Attorney Alex Van Der Zwaan pleaded guilty on Tuesday to making false statements to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team in the ongoing probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.Van Der Zwaan, a 33-year old Dutch citizen, allegedly made the false statements to officials with the special counsel and FBI agents in an interview on Nov. 3, 2017.The felony charge is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson indicated that a finding of guilt could result in Van Der Zwaan’s deportation.The judge indicated both sides have agreed to recommend a reduced prison sentence of up to six months and a reduced fine of between $500 and $9,500, saying Van Der Zwaan has no criminal history.The special counsel’s office said in their court filing that Van Der Zwaan, who worked for a law firm that did work in Ukraine in 2012, made false statements about communications in 2016 with Gates and an unnamed person.While Gates was never a client of Van Der Zwann’s according to a source with knowledge of the relationship, the two were connected because of Gates’ past work representing the Ukraine government on behalf of his former boss Paul Manafort.The communication, prosecutors allege, took place when Gates was still a member of the Trump campaign team.Manafort left the campaign in mid-August, Gates stayed on through the election.Gates is currently facing criminal charges from the special counsel over his lobbying work in Ukraine.Van der Zwaan's father-in-law is German Khan, a Ukrainian-Russian who is one of the three owners of Russia's Alfa Bank and who is mentioned in an infamous dossier written by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele. Steele was employed by opposition research firm Fusion GPS which received funding for its efforts, in part, from the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.Khan is also mentioned in court filings and congressional records request of Paul Manafort for their past work together.In a statement to ABC News, Skadden, Arps, Slate Meagher & Flom, which employed Van Der Zwaan as an associate in its London office, said they terminated his employment last year and have been "cooperating with authorities in connection with this matter."
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Sergei Millian emerged last year as one of the more intriguing characters to surface during the ongoing investigations into foreign meddling in the 2016 presidential election.The Belarusan-American businessman and onetime Russian government translator claimed to have brokered Trump-branded real estate to Russian buyers. He contacted high-level members of the Trump campaign who have since been swept into the widening Russia probe. And he was alleged in news reports to be the unwitting source of a key allegation contained in the infamous dossier of unverified claims that have beguiled the Trump presidency from its inception.Congressional investigators want to interview Millian, sources familiar with aspects of the congressional inquiries told ABC News. They have been trying — and failing — to track him down for months.So where in the world is he?Last week, Millian offered those investigators a tantalizing clue as to his possible whereabouts, posting on Twitter a photo of himself addressing what appears to be a Harvard Business School event , with the caption, “Speaker at Harvard University.”Not so fast. A university spokesman told ABC News there is no record of Millian appearing there in recent years.“We have him listed as a guest speaker at a European Conference held at the school on March 3, 2013. His session was about Russian-European Energy Relations,” said Brian Kenny, a Harvard spokesman. “That's all the information I have.”Exactly how Millian fits into the investigation remains unclear.He has said publicly that he has no ties to the scandal and has simply been pursuing his efforts to foster cooperation as the head of the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce.“The more fake news appear, the heavier the price will be paid by those who are behind this organized campaign,” he wrote on Twitter in August 2017.Millian has not always been silent. He granted an interview to ABC News in July of 2016, during the presidential campaign. He described meeting Trump in 2008 during a marketing meeting to help bring attention to the Trump-branded development in Hollywood, Florida. He had even posed for a photo with Trump at the event and, he said, was introduced to Michael Cohen, who was then the senior attorney for the Trump Organization.“Trump’s team, they realized that we have lots of connection with Russian investors. And they noticed that we bring a lot of investors from Russia,” Millian told ABC News. “And they needed my assistance, yes, to sell properties and sell some of the assets to Russian investors.”Millian said he signed an agreement “with his team so I can be his official broker.”Both Cohen and the developer of Trump Hollywood, the Related Group, told ABC News that they had no record of any signed agreement with Millian.“I’ve never met the guy,” Cohen said at the time. “I have spoken to him twice. The first time, he was proposing to do something. He’s in real estate. I told him we have no interest. Second time he called me, I asked him not to call me anymore.”During the 2016 campaign, Millian had contact with several of then-candidate Trump’s campaign aides and business colleagues, including George Papadopoulos, the campaign figure who has since pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and is now cooperating with the federal probe.Papadopoulos’s fiancé Simona Mangiante told ABC News Millian approached the young Trump foreign policy advisor early in 2016, after he became associated with the campaign, and they struck up a friendship.Millian also briefly engaged in social media contact on Twitter with Cohen. Cohen later told ABC News that he exchanged emails with Millian in order to tell him to stop exaggerating his ties to the Trump Organization.Cohen said he wrote Millian to say it had become clear “that you too are seeking media attention o
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  • ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump took to Twitter to offer surprising support for a regular opponent on Monday night. The president endorsed Republican Mitt Romney for senator from Utah, a position he hopes to inherit from the retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch.The president tweeted, "He will make a great Senator and worthy successor to @OrrinHatch and has my full support and endorsement!"Romney made the announcement he would be running last week, but never mentioned Trump in his campaign video.Romney was extremely critical of Trump during the 2016 election, including a speech from March 2016 in which he meticulously outlined all of the problems Trump presented if elected. The former Massachusetts governor ripped Trump over foreign policy, his businesses and the economy, his temperament and dealings with Russia."Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud," Romney told an audience at the University of Utah last March. "His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He's playing the American public for suckers: He gets a free ride to the White House and all we get is a lousy hat."Trump in turn said Romney "choked like a dog" when he lost in 2012 to President Barack Obama and called him a "mixed up man who doesn't have a clue."Yet, Romney accepted Trump's endorsement on Twitter late Monday, making no mention of his critical comments from a year ago.Romney said in an interview with The Associated Press on the day of his campaign announcement last Friday he was on the same page policy-wise as Trump, but wouldn't hesitate to speak out against the president if he disagreed. He voiced an immigration plan similar to Trump's in an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune, voicing support for "a border fence or wall" and saying he agreed chain migration and the lottery program should be fixed.
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Department of Defense is instating a new policy that could lead to thousands of service members, who are deemed unfit to deploy overseas, to lose their jobs, according to a U.S. defense official.Robert Wilkie, the under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, told senators this week that on any given day, about 13 to 14 percent of the force -- about 286,000 service members -- is medically unable to deploy. The defense official estimated that the total number of non-deployable service members could be as high as 300,000.An individual can be designated non-deployable for a number of reasons, like traumatic brain injury, out of date vaccines, failing fitness tests, mental health concerns and pregnancy. Other examples include neck or back pain that prohibits the service member from wearing a helmet and body armor.Last July, Secretary of Defense James Mattis directed the office responsible for personnel and readiness to identify changes to military personnel policies that will "ensure our military is ready to fight today and in the future."According to a Pentagon memo released Thursday, the new policy states that any service member (with the exception of pregnant or post-partum individuals) who has been non-deployable for more than 12 consecutive months will be processed for administrative separation (the process to leave the military) or referred to the Disability Evaluation System. The services have until Oct. 1 to begin the mandatory processing.Only the secretaries who head the military services will be authorized to grant waivers that would keep a service member on the payroll, although the secretary will be allowed to delegate that authority to someone else within the service's headquarters.Command Sergeant Maj. John Troxell, the senior enlisted adviser to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joe Dunford, told Military Times that nearly 100,000 service members are non-deployable for easily fixable administrative issues, like not having the required dental exams, while about 116,000 are due to short or long-term injuries. About 20,000 are non-deployable due to pregnancy.“Because the more of these people we have that can’t deploy and do their mission, that means somebody else has to pull their weight for them, or we have a void or a degradation in capability, because we don’t have the requisite people," Troxell said.Secretary of the Army Mark Esper told reporters on Thursday that the new policy will help address readiness levels in the Army.He said that having more non-deployable soldiers within his ranks means that those who are able to deploy have to leave their families and serve overseas much more often -- straining the force.Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump addressed the nation from the White House following a deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida that left 17 people dead."Today I speak to a nation in grief. Yesterday a school filled with innocent children and caring teachers became the scene of terrible violence, hatred and evil," Trump said ."Our entire nation with one heavy heart is praying for the victims and their families. To every parent, teacher and child who is hurting so badly, we are here for you, whatever you need, whatever we can do to ease your pain. We are all joined together as one American family. And your suffering is our burden also."He also sought to console the parents of the young people who died in the attack."No parent should ever have to fear for their sons and daughters when they kiss them goodbye in the morning," said Trump. "Each person who was stolen from us yesterday had a full life ahead of them. A life filled with wondrous beauty and unlimited potential and promise. Each one had dreams to pursue, love to give and talents to share with the world."In a proclamation, Trump ordered all flags to fly at half-staff "as a mark of solemn respect for the victims of the terrible act."Trump said that soon after the shooting, he spoke with Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Pam Bondi, the Attorney General of Florida, and Broward County Florida Sheriff Scott Israel.Trump directly addressed America's children during his remarks."I want you to know that you are never alone and you never will be. You have people who care about you, who love you, and who will do anything at all to protect you. If you need help, turn to a teacher, a family member, a local police officer or a faith leader. Answer hate with love. Answer cruelty with kindness. We must also work together to create a culture in our country that embraces the dignity of life that creates deep and meaningful human connections and that turns classmates and colleagues into friends and neighbors."Trump said that he plans to work with his administration to work on securing schools and tackling the issue of mental health.Trump tweeted his condolences on Wednesday as the shooting unfolded."My prayers and condolences to the families of the victims of the terrible Florida shooting. No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school," tweeted Trump.On Thursday, pointed to the shooter's history of mental illness."So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!" Tweeted Trump.Trump has addressed the nation three times in the wake of mass shootings -- first, after the Congressional baseball shooting in Alexandria, Virginia that left Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana in critical condition, then, in October, after the worst mass shooting in American history in Las Vegas, Nevada, and in November, after the church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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