Manafort Associate Pleads Guilty to Lobbying Charge

(CN) – W. Samuel Patten, an associate of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, pleaded guilty Friday to failing to register as a foreign agent for a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party.

Patten entered his plea in federal court in Washington, shortly after prosecutors released a four-page charging document that accused him of performing lobbying and consulting work in the United States and Ukraine but failing to register as a foreign agent as required by the Justice Department.

Patten was a business associate of Konstantin Kilimnik, a man U.S. authorities have said has ties to Russian intelligence.

Kilimnik worked closely with Manafort, who was found guilty this month of eight financial counts. Kilimnik also is a co-defendant in a pending case against Manafort in Washington, brought by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, that accuses them both of witness tampering.

According to a six-page statement of Patten’s offense, in January 2017, he solicited a U.S. citizen to serve as a “straw” purchaser in a transaction that would conceal the purchase of tickets to Trump’s inauguration by a foreign individual.

“Patten was aware at the time that the Presidential Inauguration Committee could not accept money from foreign nationals,” the filing states. “Patten had contacted an intermediary who sent [him] a communication in writing on behalf of the [inauguration committee] that it could not accept money from foreigners but foreigners could attend the event so long as they did not provide the funds.”

The straw purchaser paid $50,000 for the tickets one day after a foreign company, listed as “Company A” in the statement, received a check signed by Patten for the same sum.

“Foreigner B had paid company A for the tickets through a Cypriot account. Foreigners A and B, another Ukrainian, and Patten were allocated the four inauguration tickets,” the filing states.

The offense statement also features details about Patten’s voluntary testimony to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

This past January, Patten “misled” the committee when he intentionally omitted documents from his testimony that “could lead to revelation of him causing and concealing the foreign purchase of the [inauguration committee] tickets,” the filing states.

His misleading testimony also concealed details about his representation of foreign individuals in the United States, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael DiLorenzo wrote.

Prosecutors say Patten’s company received more than $1 million for its Ukraine work from 2015 to 2017, and contacted officials in Congress and the Executive Branch without properly registering as a foreign agent.

According to the filing, Patten formed a lobbying firm to perform work for the Opposition Bloc, a Ukrainian political party that succeeded the Party of Regions.

The Party of Regions is a pro-Russia group which Paul Manafort provided consulting and lobbying services to for several years.

Patten formed the company with a “Russian national” listed only as “Foreigner A.” Based on the description of “Foreigner A” in the charging papers, that individual is most likely Kilimnik.

Prosecutors also said Friday that the company Patten formed netted roughly $1 million for its work advising the Opposition Bloc

Like Manafort, the charging document reveals Patten also received payments via wire transfer to Cypriot bank accounts.

Patten’s attorney, Stuart Sears, did not immediately respond to request for comment Friday.

Patten also performed work for Cambridge Analytica in 2014.

The firm, which came under intense scrutiny for its work on President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, has since dissolved.

In related news, late Thursday evening, Paul Manafort’s lawyers filed their first round of objections to the special counsel’s list of proposed exhibits for Manafort’s trial in Washington, D.C.

Spread over roughly a dozen pages, defense attorney Kevin Downing objected to a variety of documents, including emails shared between Manafort and his former associate Rick Gates from 2013 to 2016.

Manafort’s attorneys have also objected to the use of photos from inside Manafort’s homes in the Hamptons and other items more specific to Manafort’s lobbying work like client talking points and other memos.

Manafort’s trial in Washington, D.C.  begins September 24.

In a separate filing at the federal court in D.C. Friday, the special counsel filed its response to Manafort’s request to change venues to a federal court in Roanoke, Virginia.

Prosecutor Andrew Weissmann leaned on a ruling from Judge T.S. Ellis III, the judge who oversaw Manafort’s trial in the Eastern District of Virginia this month.

“Judge Ellis explained that substantial media attention does not, by itself, warrant a change  in venue,” Weissman wrote.

Jurors would be drawn from a large enough jury pool, Ellis wrote then, that nothing about the publicity that Manafort identified “suggested that impartial jurors cannot be found through an exacting voir dire process.”

Weissmann also dismissed concerns that a jury pool in Washington, D.C. might be too liberal leaning. Manafort raised the concern in his request to change venues in Washington as well as in Alexandria.

“Political leanings are not, by themselves, evidence that those jurors cannot fairly and impartially consider the evidence presented and apply the law as instructed by the court,” Weissmann wrote.

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