George Papadopoulos. Michael Flynn. Alexander van der Zwaan. Paul Manafort. Some of the most high-profile men caught up in the Russia investigation all have one thing in common: They’ve learned firsthand that the cover-up can also be a crime.
All four men have either decided to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller or have been sent to jail—not because it was proven that any of them colluded with Russia or attempted to obstruct justice, but because they lied to the FBI or tried to influence the outcome of the investigation in some significant way. Their fates could send a clear signal to the president, who is weighing whether or not to sit down with Mueller for an interview: If you lie to federal agents, there will be consequences.
Papadopoulos, a foreign-policy adviser on President Trump’s campaign, and Flynn, a top campaign surrogate who went on to serve as Trump’s national-security adviser, both pleaded guilty within months of one another to lying to the FBI about the nature of their contacts with foreign nationals. Van der Zwaan, a lawyer who helped produce a report friendly to Ukraine’s ousted President Viktor Yanukovych at Manafort’s behest, went to jail for a month after pleading guilty to lying to the FBI about his contact with two former Manafort associates. And Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, was sent to jail on Friday—not as a result of the original charges against him, which included money laundering, bank fraud, and tax fraud, but because he engaged in witness tampering and tried to obstruct justice, according to prosecutors.