Samuel Patten, an associate of Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, was charged Friday for allegedly acting as an unauthorized foreign agent on behalf of a Ukrainian political party known as Opposition Bloc.
Referred by the office of special counsel Robert Mueller, the case was overseen by the U.S. attorney for Washington. Patten is said to have been compensated in excess of $1 million for his work on behalf of the pro-Russian group between 2014-2017.
According to Justice Department officials, Patten worked with “a foreigner to place op-ed articles” in a U.S. news outlets in 2017.
“The plea deal was handled by the DC US Attorney’s Office and the Justice Department’s National Security Division, not Mueller’s team, which is about to take former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort to trial on a similar charge,” CNN reports. “The criminal charging document does not name Manafort or any of his colleagues in the US and Ukraine, though Patten may be connected to those efforts.”
Justice Department prosecutors alleged that Patten, through an entity referred to as “Company A,” partnered “50-50” with a Russian national for lobbying work conducted on U.S. soil, which included “[advising] the pro-Russian Ukrainian party Opposition Bloc” and a “prominent Ukraine oligarch.”
Patten and Konstantin Kilimnik, another Manafort associate, launched what is believed to be “Company A” in 2015. The special counsel office believes Kilimnik has strong ties with Russian intelligence officials.
In a statement to the Daily Beast on April 4, Patten balked at the allegations regarding Kilimnik’s ties to the Russian intelligence community. “A lot of people in our country wish Mueller well. If this is his ace in the hole, I am profoundly depressed,” Patten told the news outlet. “For people to continuously repeat the ‘in contact with/working with Russian intel’ epithet about anyone who lives or works in a country ruled by an ex KGB officer is rather absurd,” he added.
The lobbyist will appear Friday morning before Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is overseeing Manafort’s second trial scheduled for next month.
The charges against Patten come after Ryan Dickey and Brian Richardson, a pair of “relatively junior” special counsel prosecutors, have left Mueller’s team. Special counsel spokesperson Peter Carr said their departures were not driven by perceived political bias or wrongdoing.
President Donald Trump, a frequent critic of the Mueller investigation, has routinely referred to the ongoing probe as a “witch hunt.” At a rally in Evansville, Indiana, Thursday evening, the president hinted that he may get involved in the investigation, which has dragged into its second year. “Our Justice Department and our FBI have to start doing their job, doing it right, and doing it now because people are angry,” he said. “What’s happening is a disgrace and at some point – I wanted to stay out, but at some point, if it doesn’t straighten out properly, I will get involved and I’ll get in there if I have to.”