The former president of Georgia has come forward with evidence that a lobbyist, who accepted a plea deal with the Justice Department as part of the special counsel Robert Mueller investigation, has been trying to blackmail him into keeping quiet.
Who is Sam Patten?
Samuel Patten is a lobbyist and former associate of former-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. In the early to mid-2000s, he worked for the International Republic Institute in Moscow. Konstantin Kilimnik, another person of interest in Mueller's probe, worked there with Patten. Kilimnik is suspected to have ties to Russian intelligence, as well as to Manafort.
In Georgia, Patten worked with Bidzina Ivanishvili, a longtime political opponent of former-Georgia President Mikheil Saakashvili.
Patten was also involved with Cambridge Analytica, the London-based political research firm that was improperly given data on 50 million Facebook users.
Patten has pleaded guilty to the crime of failing to register as a foreign lobbyist, and agreed to cooperate with Mueller's investigation. He could face up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.
Who is former President Saakashvili?
Saakashvili was recently in the United States for the funeral of his friend, the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). McCain had been an outspoken supporter of Georgia during the 2008 conflict between that nation and Russia.
What's the story?
According to screenshots provided by Saakashvili's team, Sam Patten posted on Facebook on Aug. 31 about how he had pleaded "guilty for failure to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), a felony offense."
Someone who worked for Saakashvili saw the post and forwarded it to him. Saakashvili posted a screenshot of this status on his own Facebook page, along with a message about how a lobbyist who had worked with his former opponent Ivanishvili was now a felon.
This apparently led to a number of people who saw Saakashvili's status trolling Patten on social media.
On Sept. 1, Saakashvili was scheduled to appear on CNN. Before that appearance, Saakashvili's former chief of staff, George Arveladze, received a message from Patten on Facebook. According to screenshots provided by Saakashvili's people, the messages read:
Call of[f] your trolls now or I'll start releasing things about Misha he'd prefer I didn't. Like now, and have them go back and arrase (sic) their comments.
Three-and-a-half hours later, Patten sent a second message
Misha knows what I'm talking about but frankly I have bigger problems these days, maybe you two are no longer as tight as you used to be."
Saakashvili and his staff insisted to TheBlaze that they had no idea what Patten was referring to, and that if he produced any blackmail it would likely be fabricated. Saakashvili would read those messages during his CNN appearance, and post them to his Facebook page.
Patten did work on Saakashvili's campaign staff in 2008, but only very briefly. He would go on to work for Saakashvili's political opponents in 2012.
Saakashvili's staff told TheBlaze that the incident was reported to both the FBI and the Department of Justice. It is not clear at this point whether or not this will interfere with Patten's plea deal.