Today we saw Russian operative Samuel Patten cut a plea deal with Robert Mueller and federal prosecutors, while confessing to various Trump-Russia crimes. Patten is connected to Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Russian spy Konstantin Kilimnik among others. There is no known connection between Patten and Donald Trump Jr, but Patten’s plea should nonetheless have Junior quaking in his boots, because of one of the specific things Patten confessed to today.
Among various other things, Patten has confessed that he lied about the Trump-Russia scandal to the Senate Intelligence Committee. The leading Republican and Democrat on that committee then referred the matter to federal prosecutors, according to CNN’s reporting. In turn, Robert Mueller ended up handing off his end of the Patten case to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Washington DC, which pursued the entire case and ultimately reached a plea deal with Patten. This firmly establishes that anyone who lied to Congress about Trump-Russia is officially in legal jeopardy.
Lying to the House or Senate under oath is considered perjury, a felony, under federal law. However, due to the political nature of these things, it’s never been fully clear whether anyone who lied to Congress about Trump-Russia would end up being criminally prosecuted for it. After Jeff Sessions got caught lying about Trump-Russia during his Senate confirmation hearings, we all saw him recuse himself, in an attempt at avoiding criminal charges. But now we have confirmation that Mueller and his partners are indeed pursuing Trump-Russia players who have lied to Congress.
Earlier this month the New York Times provided a detailed explanation of the legal trouble that Donald Trump Jr could face for having apparently lied to Congress during his Trump-Russia testimony. Junior has also been accused of much more severe crimes related to his Trump Tower meeting, but charges like perjury are much simpler to prove, and often drive a larger overall criminal case. Now we know that people in the Trump-Russia scandal are being actively prosecuted for having lied to Congress. That’s a problem for anyone in this scandal who told any such lies.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report