US lobbyist admits to foreign donation scheme tied to Trump inauguration

Monday, 03 Sep, 2018

Bloomberg, fresh off a day of presidential tidbits, is first to report that Sam Patten, a Paul Manafort lobbying associate with ties to suspected Russian intelligence agent Konstantin Kilimnik dating back two decades, has been hit with a Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) violation.

The documents filed along with Patten's plea lay out years of work he performed for a wealthy Ukrainian businessman and a Ukrainian political party known as the Opposition Bloc beginning in 2014.

Paul Manafort's former associate was also head of International Republican Institute's Moscow office from 2001 to 2004, worked with the late opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, served as Eurasian program director at a Russia-focused advocacy group, and worked as a legislative adviser and speechwriter for two USA senators. Manafort, who was one of President Donald Trump's campaign chairmen, was found guilty this month in Alexandria, Va., of tax and bank fraud charges. Kilimnik worked closely with Manafort, and is a co-defendant in a pending case against Manafort in Washington that accuses them both of witness tampering.

According to the charging document, "Company A" was paid more than US$1-million to assist the Opposition Bloc and its members, including a "prominent Ukraine oligarch", who is not named.

Patten "knew at the time that he took all of the actions described above that the Foreign Agents Registration Act required him to register in order to engage legally in such United States activities for a foreign principal", the charging document states.

Manafort is scheduled to face a second set of criminal charges regarding his failure to register his foreign lobbying and alleged involvement in a Ukrainian money laundering conspiracy at another federal trial in Washington, D.C. on September 24.

The Patten case was referred by special counsel Robert Mueller's team to the United States Attorney's Office in Washington, said Bill Miller, a spokesperson for the office.

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Patten appeared in federal court in Washington on Friday.

Patten was released on his own recognizance Friday without a sentencing date. Patten also drafted talking points for Foreigner B for his meetings on Capitol Hill, as well as "talking points for Congressional staffers to use to convince other Congressional members and staff to meet with Foreigner B". From 2014 until now, according to Bloomberg, Patten lobbied on behalf of a Ukrainian political party, and on behalf of a Ukrainian oligarch.

Patten also said he lied to the Senate Intelligence Committee about his foreign dealings.

The maximum sentence for Patten is five years in prison.

Separately, the Trump campaign hired Cambridge Analytica for its data services in 2016.

Patten's long friendship with Kilimnik-which stems from their time working together at the International Republican Institute in Moscow between 2001 and 2003-would likely be enough to draw scrutiny from Mueller, who appears to have homed in on Kilimnik as a potentially significant link between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation.

After the congressional testimony, Patten then destroyed documents relating to his foreign work. Attorney Andrew Weissmann for the special counsel's office and Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Omer Meisel were present in court.