Prosecutors make secret filing in case linked to Mueller

Government prosecutors on Monday filed an update in a criminal case stemming from special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerKamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE’s investigation — but the filing was made under seal, meaning the details remain shielded from the public.

The case involves Sam Patten, a GOP consultant and one-time associate of Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortNew York activists go on hunger strike to advocate for ending solitary confinement New York activists go on hunger strike to advocate for ending solitary confinement House panel subpoenas Flynn, Gates MORE who pleaded guilty to failing to register as a foreign agent while performing lobbying work on behalf of a political party in Ukraine last August.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, D.C. and Patten’s defense attorneys were due to file a status report in his case on Monday — filings that sometimes contain details about the extent of a defendant’s cooperation with the government.

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However, federal prosecutors asked Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is overseeing Patten’s case, to file the status report under seal. Jackson granted the request.

“The United States of America, by and through its attorney, the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, respectfully submits this notice of filing of the government’s Motion for Leave to File the Joint Status Report dated February 11, 2019 Under Seal and the Joint Status Report in the above-captioned case,” the filing states.

Mueller’s office referred Patten’s case to the U.S. attorney’s office in D.C. for prosecution.

However, as part of his plea agreement unsealed last August, Patten agreed to cooperate with the special counsel’s office and other federal prosecutors.

Monday’s filing is a possible indication that the government wants to keep any details of Patten’s cooperation from the public realm; indeed, it remains unclear what probes he may be cooperating with.

Prosecutors also typically use status reports to request that a judge move a defendant to sentencing. It therefore remains unclear when Patten will be ultimately be sentenced. He is not likely to face significant jail time. 

This is the second time that federal prosecutors have made a sealed filing in his case; they similarly requested to file a status report under seal at the end of December.

Patten pleaded guilty to violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) by failing to register as a lobbyist for the Opposition Bloc, a political party in Ukraine that succeeded Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions.

Patten has business links to Manafort, President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Trump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Ocasio-Cortez claps back at Trump after he cites her in tweet rejecting impeachment MORE’s former campaign chairman, as well as Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian who is suspected of having ties to Kremlin intelligence. Mueller has accused Manafort of lying to investigators about his contacts with Kilimnik during the 2016 campaign.

Last August, Patten also admitted to using an American citizen as a “straw purchaser” to obtain tickets to Trump’s inauguration for a “prominent” Ukrainian oligarch, though he was not charged with anything in connection with the admission.

Meanwhile, federal prosecutors reportedly subpoenaed Trump’s inaugural committee for documents last week in a request that signaled authorities are examining whether foreigners illegally donated to the organization.

Mueller has been investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Moscow for close to two years.

In some cases — like Patten's — Mueller has referred evidence of potential criminal wrongdoing that falls out of the scope of the probe to other federal prosecutors.

Mueller has brought charges against over two dozen Russians in connection with efforts to interfere in the 2016 election.

The special counsel has also charged six Trump associates, though none of the charges have alleged any conspiracy between the campaign and the Russian government.