What would Hunter’s life look like today if his last name weren’t Biden? This rhetorical question is relevant to every American because the rule of law includes the principle that the law must be fair and evenly fairly applied rather than selectively used for political purposes.
For a fascinating sidebar on the news of the past quarter-century, look at the story of an American who was actually qualified to work in Ukraine, how events over the past five years upended his life and what he’s learned along the way.
“Dangerous Company: The Misadventures of a ‘Foreign Agent,’” by Sam Patten, is that story. It is an action memoir, and it reads like a thriller. It is a real-life story reminiscent of Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne series.
Mr. Patten was not a dark-ops spy like the fictional Bourne; he was a political consultant, mainly for clients in other countries, when then-special counsel Robert Mueller charged him with being an unregistered foreign agent in 2018.
This book takes the reader on the improbable, hair-raising and illuminating path that Mr. Patten blazed around the world, only to then be destroyed at home.
From Henry James’ “Daisy Miller” to Mark Twain’s “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” to Ernest Hemingway’s wartime novels and Graham Greene’s “The Quiet American,” writers have long fixated on the American abroad as a vehicle for bigger questions about innocence lost or secret worlds revealed.
In this real-life story, Mr. Patten begins as an evangelist for democracy, becomes a high-octane political mercenary and is transformed by events beyond his control.
When the FBI knocked on the door of Mr. Patten’s Capitol Hill town house in 2018, he at first thought it more likely they were there to ask about Cambridge Analytica, the London-based consultancy that worked for Ted Cruz’s and Donald Trump’s presidential campaigns and had in the weeks before nearly broken Facebook.
Instead, they were interested in his Russian-Ukrainian business partner, Konstantin Kilimnik, who had also worked as Paul Manafort’s man in Kyiv.
By the spring of that year, the FBI’s “Crossfire Hurricane” operation, which special counsel John Durham determined earlier this year should have never been opened given the dubious sources of information on which it was based, was already running out of gas.
Desperate to keep the fire under then-President Donald Trump’s feet, investigators were scrambling for kindling wherever they could find it. And that’s where Mr. Patten’s luck runs out.
But just as interesting as this tragic turn of events was for the author, for MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, it became the impetus of an ongoing and baseless attack in which she dedicated multiple segments of her program, calling Mr. Patten the “missing link” in multiple investigations of Mr. Trump.
Politically motivated prosecutions don’t simply malign billionaire presidents, as Mr. Patten learned in a personal way. From Central Asia to Russia, Iraq, Africa and beyond, this American abroad devotes himself to finding those places where, as he puts it, “history is on the boil.” In most of his ports of call, it is scaldingly hot.
In Russia, Mr. Patten befriends Boris Nemtsov, an opposition leader who is later assassinated. In Iraq, he helps the full spectrum of political forces prepare for that country’s first free election in half a century on the heels of the U.S.-led invasion.
In Georgia and Ukraine — two countries invaded by Russia during the timeline of this book — Mr. Patten works for multiple sides, affording the reader deeper insights than sporadic headlines provide. Along the way, he encounters presidents, prime ministers, kings, kingmakers, revolutionaries, gangsters, heavyweights and snake oil salesmen.
“Dangerous Company” is jampacked with action: Mr. Patten is stabbed twice, shot at, nearly blown up, and ultimately strung up on a processing charge in an investigation that itself did not derive from an honest place.
The irony is rich, especially given Mr. Patten’s noble motives at the outset. To the extent that he is corrupted, it is by the practices of his hometown: Washington, aka “the swamp.” And unlike first son Hunter Biden, Mr. Patten pays a steep price for a crime that is difficult to understand.
To call enforcement of the Foreign Agents Registration Act selective would be a tremendous understatement. In other politically originated cases, like the Justice Department’s pursuit of former Trump campaign finance chair Tom Barrack, prosecutors have failed to win convictions under the arcane statute.
As the war in Ukraine continues into a second year, Mr. Patten’s book is timely and illuminating.
One thing it is missing are conclusions: Whether by design or omission, the author does not explicitly state the meaning of his experiences but rather describes them like a journalist, with color and sometimes searing honesty.
At times, it is difficult to pigeonhole the author or the book, which is part of what makes “Dangerous Company” such an engaging read.
• George Landrith is president of Frontiers of Freedom, a think tank promoting constitutionally limited government, individual liberty, free markets and a strong national defense.
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Dangerous Company: The Misadventures of a ‘Foreign Agent’
By Sam Patten
312 pages; Amplify Publishing, Oct. 3, 2023