Yanukovych was in the midst of a power struggle with another prominent Ukrainian politician, which he decided to solve by jailing her in the fall of 2011. Manafort and Gates’s job was to run cover for this clearly undemocratic prosecution. So they retained a team from Skadden Arps, which included van der Zwaan, to put together a “report” that conveniently concluded that there was no political motive for putting her in jail.
This was a big deal in Ukraine but a relatively obscure issue for most of the rest of the world.
…The key piece of information in all of this is the timing: Manafort resigned as Trump’s campaign manager on August 19, 2016 — weeks before the alleged conversations between Gates, Person A, and van der Zwaan. The resignation was the result of widespread reporting about Manafort’s shady ties to Yanukovych, particularly an allegedly off-the-books payment.
If Gates and van der Zwaan were talking about the Skadden report in September 2016, and van der Zwaan felt the need to lie to the FBI about it, it suggests that there may have been something criminal about the report’s production — or at least, something whose release would be politically damaging.