An associate of a Russian co-defendant of ex-Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort pleaded guilty Friday to failing to register as an agent for foreign interests, and has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, including special counsel Robert Mueller.
The case against W. Samuel Patten, 47, of Washington, D.C., relates to consulting and lobbying work that he and an unidentified Russian national performed for a Ukraine political party and its members, who included a "prominent Ukraine oligarch." Manafort had advocated for the creation of that party, Opposition Bloc, after Manafort's client, ex-Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych, was removed from office and fled to Russia.
Patten concealed the fact that he had caused $50,000 from that unidentified oligarch to be used to buy four tickets for the oligarch to attend the presidential inauguration of Donald Trump with Patten in January 2017, according to court records. The inauguration committee is barred from accepting money from foreign nationals.
Patten's case was referred by Mueller to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia and the Justice Department's national security division.
Mueller is prosecuting Manafort and also is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election that put Trump in the White House.
The charge against Patten, violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act, mirrors one pending against Manafort, carries a maxmium possible sentence of five years in prison.
A spokesman for prosecutors declined to comment when asked if Patten is now expected to testify against at Manafort's trial next month in the same Washington courtroom where Patten pleaded guilty Friday. Patten's lawyer, Stuart Sears, declined to comment.
Patten was freed without bond by Judge Amy Berman Jackson at his court appearance. The judge ordered Patten to continue participating in mental health services, to surrender his passport, to not consume alcohol and to not travel outside of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area without permission from Jackson.
Patten has ties to Konstantin Kilimnik, the suspected Russian intelligence agent who in June was charged with Manafort for trying to tamper with potential witnesses against Manafort in pending criminal cases. Kilimnik had been an aide to Manafort.
Kilimnik is not identified in the charging document against Patten. Earlier this year, The Daily Beast reported that Kilimnik had set up a firm in 2015 called Begemot Ventures International, for which Patten served as an executive.
The charging document says that Patten and the unidentified Russian national formed a company that since 2015 did work for the Opposition Bloc party and party members who included the oligarch.
The company received more than $1 million through an account in Cyprus for their services for Opposition Bloc and other activities, according to prosecutors.
The charging document also says that Patten set up meetings for his Russian partner and the oligarch with members of Congress and their staffs on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in 2015.
"The activity was undertaken to promote the interests of [the oligarch] and Opposition Bloc to influence United States policy," the document said. It also says Patten drafted op-ed articles for the oligarch "and then placed them with United States media."
Prosecutors say that Patten, who had previously filed under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, "knew at the time that he took all of the actions" that he was required to register under FARA "in order to engage legally" in the U.S. "for a foreign principal."
Prosecutors also said that Patten and his Russian associate asked the oligarch whether their company could file under FARA, and the oligarch "said in substance that he did not want them to register now, but they could eventually do so at an unspecified future date."
But Patten and the Russian never filed under FARA, according to prosecutors.
Court documents say that after Patten had a "straw" purchaser buy $50,000 worth of inaguration tickets for the oligarch with money provided by Patten's company, which in turn was reimbursed by the oligarch through the Cypriot account.
Documents also say that Patten testified before the Senate Selected Committee on Intelligence in January 2018, and that he misled that committee by failing to provide it with documents that "could lead to revelation of him causing and concealing the foreign purchase of the" inauguration tickets, and also gave false testimony to avoid disclosing his actions.
"After the interview, Patten deleted documents pertinent to his relationships with" the foreign nationals with whom he had dealt, according to prosecutors.
Two members of the committee, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., in a statement issued Friday said, "We can confirm that Mr. Patten produced documents to the Committee and was interviewed by Committee staff."
"Due to concerns about certain statements made by Mr. Patten, the Committee made a criminal referral to the Department of Justice," the senators said. "While the charge, and resultant plea, do not appear to directly involve our referral, we appreciate their review of this matter. We will have no further comments on this case at this time."
Patten previously served as senior advisor to undersecretary of state for democracy and global affairs for eight months in 2008, at the tail end of the administration of President George W. Bush.
According to his LinkedIn page, he also had served as a legislative assistant to Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, for less than two years starting in 1999, and had been a campaign coordinator on the presidential campaign of Bush in 2000.
Manafort is set to go on trial next month in Washington on charges of money laundering, witness tampering, and failing to register as a foreign agent.
The longtime Republican operative was convicted last week of tax crimes and bank fraud in a separate trial in Virginia.
Both of those cases, in which Manafort has pleaded not guilty, were brought by Mueller.
The cases relate to work that Manafort did in Ukraine for the pro-Russia Party of Regions, whose members included Yanukovych.