A Maine native listed as a potential witness against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort continues to draw national attention, including reportedly sending messages that a former Georgian president regarded as attempted blackmail.

W. Samuel Patten leaves the federal court in Washington on Aug. 31. He entered a guilty plea shortly after prosecutors released a four-page document that accused him of doing lobbying and consulting work in the United States and Ukraine but failing to register as a foreign agent as required by the Justice Department.

Samuel Patten, formerly of Camden, agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors in exchange for potential leniency when he is sentenced for failing to register as a foreign lobbyist while working on behalf of a Ukrainian political party.

On Wednesday, Patten’s name appeared on a list of 120 potential witnesses or people who might be mentioned in the trial against Manafort that is expected to start in Washington, D.C., later this month.

It is unclear what role, if any, Patten could play in the trial against Manafort – President Trump’s former campaign chairman – on federal money laundering and other charges. But he is among dozens of people tangled up in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential Russian interference in the 2016 elections – and potential collusion with members of the Trump campaign – as well as the multiple cases spun off from the Mueller probe.

A graduate of Camden-Rockport High School, Patten grew up in Maine and is the son of the former owner of the Camden Herald and Belfast Republican Journal newspapers. Before becoming an international political consultant and lobbyist in Washington, D.C., Patten worked in the offices of numerous prominent Maine political figures – including Republican Sens. Bill Cohen, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins – and helped lead President George W. Bush’s campaign in the state.

On. Aug. 31, Patten pleaded guilty to failing to register as a foreign agent for his lobbying work on behalf of Ukrainian officials on Capitol Hill. According to the plea agreement, Patten’s work aimed to “influence United States policy” and benefit foreign individuals by setting up meetings between Ukrainian political figures and members of Congress or their staff, drafting talking points and crafting opinion pieces for media outlets.

Patten also agreed that he illegally steered a $50,000 donation to the president’s inauguration from a foreign national. Federal law prohibits foreign residents from donating to inauguration campaigns, so Patten apparently funneled the $50,000 contribution through an American “straw donor” while securing tickets to the inauguration for himself and several foreign nationals.

But just days after the guilty plea, former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili alleged Patten threatened to release unspecified information unless a former aide to Saakashvili called off “trolls” posting comments about him online. Reading the reported digital messages to his former chief of staff live on CNN, Saakashvili said he did not know what information Patten might be referring to but accused the man he had worked with years earlier of potential blackmail.

“Actually, it’s a direct blackmail,” Saakashvili, who served as Georgia’s president for nearly a decade until 2013, said on CNN. “This is a typical Russian type of blackmail. … These guys are for hire. They are ready to do just any dirty tricks, they are ready to cheat and to go against U.S. interests, to do all kind of things, including the blackmail.”

According to Talking Points Memo, Patten worked briefly with Saakashvili’s party in 2008, but later worked with a rival party, helping it to win a majority in the Georgian parliament.

Patten’s attorney, Stuart Sears, declined to comment Friday on the potential witness list or Saakashvili’s statements against his client.

“Neither I nor Mr. Patten will be making any statements or answering questions at this time,” Sears wrote in an email. “Should that change, I will let you know.”

Patten’s website said he worked extensively as an “international political consultant” in the countries of the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

“Internationally, Patten has counseled Fortune 500 corporations, Ultra-High Net Worth Individuals, elected officials, opposition leaders, and human rights activists in Albania, Georgia, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Romania, Russia, Thailand, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom, and elsewhere,” reads his website.

Patten’s separate business relationship with a close aide to Manafort, however, caught the attention of investigators in Mueller’s probe.

Patten has close ties to a Russian citizen, Konstantin Kilimnik, who is a co-defendant with Manafort in the upcoming witness tampering trial. Patten and Kilimnik set up a political consulting and advisory firm named Begemot Ventures International that offered clients help to “win elections, strengthen political parties, build the right arguments before domestic and international audiences, and achieve better results.”

Although not named in the plea agreement, Begemot Ventures International appears to be the firm he was working under when he failed to register as a foreign agent while lobbying on behalf of the Ukrainian political party. The firm received more than $1 million between 2015 and 2017 from the Ukrainian Opposition Bloc and for other Ukrainian consulting work, according to the agreement.

Kilimnik had worked for years alongside Manafort, first as a translator and then as his office manager and “fixer” as the pair worked with clients in Russia and Ukraine. A jury found Manafort guilty of tax and bank fraud, as well as hiding a foreign bank account last month. He faces a slew of additional charges – including witness tampering, money laundering and failing to register as a foreign agent – during the second trial slated to begin later this month.

In the agreed-upon plea with federal prosecutors, Patten also acknowledged giving “false and misleading testimony” to the Senate Intelligence Committee regarding his lobbying on behalf of foreign nationals and the inaugural donation. Both of Maine’s senators, Collins and independent Sen. Angus King, serve on the 15-member Senate Intelligence Committee conducting its own investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

“I am saddened by Sam’s conduct and with his false statements to the Senate Intelligence Committee,” Collins, who had employed Patten on her staff early into her Senate tenure, said in a statement to the Press Herald last week. “I have always said that the committee will follow the evidence wherever it leads, and we will continue to do so.”

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 791-6312 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: KevinMillerPPH

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