Lobbyist linked to Manafort pleads guilty, agrees to aid prosecutors


Swept up in Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election, a Washington lobbyist and former Paul Manafort associate named W. Samuel Patten pleaded guilty Friday to one count of violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Patten was charged via a criminal information, which is a document that prosecutors use when a defendant waives an indictment.

Manafort was recently convicted on eight counts of tax fraud, bank fraud, and failure to report foreign bank accounts. According to the charging document, both men repeatedly attempted to tamper with witness testimony in Mueller's Russian Federation probe related to Manafort's political consulting work.

Court papers don't refer to Kilimnik by name, but say Patten worked with a Russian national on lobbying and political consulting services. Patten, and Foreigner A, set up a company in the United States that was paid more than $1 million to work on behalf of Opposition Bloc.

The charges against Patten also represented the first public acknowledgment that prosecutors are looking into efforts by foreign interests to funnel money into Trump's political operation, including his inaugural committee.

Referred by the office of special counsel Robert Mueller, the case was overseen by the US attorney for Washington. Andrew Weissmann, a lawyer on Mueller's team who has been leading the Manafort prosecution, was present in court when Patten pleaded guilty.

Later, Patten wrote talking points and letters used to lobby US officials on the behalf of the businessman, who is referred to as "Foreigner B".

Patten said he would cooperate with prosecutors.

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The description of the oligarch, including his attendance at Trump's inauguration and the placing of an op-ed in February 2017 by Patten, appeared to match that of Serhiy Lyovochkin, an Opposition Bloc lawmaker and Yanukovych's former chief of staff. Their names made headlines a year ago when it emerged that Manafort may have been trying to use his elevated role on the Trump campaign to resolve a longstanding financial dispute with Oleg Deripaska, a Russian-Ukrainian oligarch and aluminum magnate.

In court, Patten conveyed the air of a solemn man aware of what he had done. Yet, to hide that Foreigner B was paying for the tickets, court papers say Patten had the American front the $50,000 for the tickets.

Details about the Ukrainian oligarch match those of Sergei Lyovochkin, an Opposition Bloc leader whom prosecutors have previously identified as funding Manafort's work in Ukraine.

Berman Jackson confirmed that he had signed every page of his plea agreement and charging documents with "a squiggle". The charge carries a maximum prison sentence of five years in prison.

Patten was released on his own recognizance but can not travel outside the Washington area without notifying the court.

Prosecutions of the offense have been rare, but in recent years, the Justice Department's national security division has taken a tougher stance on enforcement of the law.

The work involved setting up meetings in January 2015 with officials in the executive branch and members of Congress, to influence USA policy.