A Republican consultant linked to President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort admitted Friday he illegally funnelled money from a Ukraine tycoon to Trump’s inauguration.
Sam Patten, who worked with Manafort to advise and lobby for Ukraine’s pro-Russia Opposition Bloc, was the newest person to be charged out of special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s sprawling Russia collusion investigation.
In a deal with prosecutors Patten, 47, agreed to plead guilty to one charge of failing to register as a foreign agent, a relatively light charge that was conditioned on his cooperation with Mueller and other investigations.
A court filing said he earned more than $1 million between 2015 and 2017 representing the interests of the Opposition Bloc, which Manafort also previously consulted for.
The work was performed by Patten’s joint company with a Russian national who is unnamed in the court filing but appears to be Konstantin Kilimnik, a former linguist of Moscow’s powerful GRU spy agency. US officials say Kilimnik continues to maintain close ties to Russian intelligence.
The charges said Patten worked with his Russian partner to set up meetings between an unnamed “prominent Ukraine oligarch” and member of the US Congress and their staff “to influence United States policy.”
Patten also, in January 2017, arranged for the Ukrainian oligarch to attend Trump’s inauguration.
To obtain four tickets, the Ukrainian funnelled $50,000 through Patten and another American.
“Patten was aware at the time that the Presidential Inauguration Committee could not accept money from foreign nationals,” the charges said.
The Patten case came 10 days after Manafort, a longtime Republican consultant who was chairman of Trump’s election campaign in 2016, was convicted of tax and bank fraud as a part of Mueller’s investigation.
The Patten court filings indicate that he has been cooperating with Mueller’s investigation, and require him to continue to do so before he is sentenced.
Manafort still faces more charges, including obstruction allegations against him and Kilimnik for alleged witness tampering.
Focus on Russian Kilimnik
Patten has not figured large in the sprawling Mueller investigation, which is examining whether President Donald Trump’s 2016 election team colluded with Russians to tilt the election toward Trump, and whether Trump has since obstructed the investigation.
Kilimnik though increasingly appears in court filings as a link between the campaign and Moscow.
He worked closely with Manafort for years in Kiev, when they advised Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovych.
Earlier this year, Patten told US media he and Kilimnik were friends and partners for years, dating back to the early 2000s when both worked for the International Republican Institute in Moscow.
In 2014, Patten also worked with Cambridge Analytica, the British consultant that hijacked Facebook personal data for 87 million users that was used in Trump’s 2016 campaign.
Mueller is reportedly investigating whether Cambridge Analytica or its data also played a role in Russian interference in the election.