In an interview with ABC News Wednesday, an ex-adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said “it was clear” to Ukrainian officials that President Trump would communicate with them only if they agreed to discuss former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.
"It was clear that Trump would only have communications if they discussed the Biden case. This issue was raised many times. I know that Ukrainian officials understood."
~Zelensky advisor Serhiy Leshchenko https://t.co/byEYC7I11r
— Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) September 25, 2019
“It was clear that Trump will only have communications if they will discuss the Biden case,” said Serhiy Leshchenko, a former member of Ukraine’s parliament and member of Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau. “This issue was raised many times. I know that Ukrainian officials understood.”
Leshchenko told ABC News that the Biden investigation was encouraged by Shokin’s successor, Yuri Lutsenko, whom Leshchenko said was seeking protection from the U.S. because he thought Zelensky would fire him as prosecutor general.
“We understood that he was just trying to protect his position in the new administration using this scandal,” Leshchenko said, according to ABC News. “And he put Ukraine on this battlefield.”
Leshchenko, it should be noted, comes to the UkraineGate controversy with a considerable amount of baggage.
He was involved in Democratic opposition research efforts into former Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort in 2016, and is widely credited with publicizing the so-called “black ledger” that implicated Manafort in a $12.7 million cash kickback scheme.
He also served as a source for journalist Michael Isikoff, DNC Ukrainian operative Alexandra Chalupa, and Fusion GPS.
Leshchenko, who was elected in 2014, held a press conference in the summer of 2016 to highlight the ledger, and to urge Ukrainian and American law enforcement to aggressively investigate Manafort.
“I believe and understand the basis of these payments are totally against the law — we have the proof from these books,” Leshchenko said during the news conference. “If Mr. Manafort denies any allegations, I think he has to be interrogated into this case and prove his position that he was not involved in any misconduct on the territory of Ukraine,” he added.
Manafort denied receiving any off-books cash from Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, and said that he had never been contacted about the ledger by Ukrainian or American investigators, later telling POLITICO “I was just caught in the crossfire.”
The news conference received international media coverage and Manafort stepped down from the Trump Campaign less than a week after the New York Times featured the story.
Leshchenko freely admitted at the time that he was attempting to undermine then-candidate Trump because he saw him as a “pro-Russian candidate.”
“For me, it was important to show not only the corruption aspect, but that he is [a] pro-Russian candidate who can break the geopolitical balance in the world,” Leshchenko told the Financial Times a couple of weeks after his news conference.
The newspaper noted that Trump’s candidacy had spurred “Kiev’s wider political leadership to do something they would never have attempted before: intervene, however indirectly, in a U.S. election,” and the story quoted Leshchenko asserting that the majority of Ukraine’s politicians are “on Hillary Clinton’s side.”
Two years later, the Ukrainian government ruled that Leshchenko had illegally interfered in the 2016 election.
On Dec. 11, 2018, a court in Kyiv found that Leshchenko’s release of the black ledger had “led to interference in the electoral processes of the United States in 2016 and harmed the interests of Ukraine as a state.”
Leshchenko reportedly joined Zelensky’s team on the eve of the presidential election in Ukraine last spring.
In May, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani abruptly canceled a trip to Ukraine, telling Fox News’ Shannon Bream that the reason he bailed was because he had discovered that Zelensky was surrounded by political enemies and was convinced that he was about to “walk into a trap.”
Giuliani had planned to ask Ukraine’s new president to look into the origin of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and review the involvement of Joe Biden’s son in an energy company owned by a Ukrainian oligarch.
The New York Times had recently blasted Giuliani’s plans, saying they created “the remarkable scene of a lawyer for the president of the United States pressing a foreign government to pursue investigations that Mr. Trump’s allies hope could help him in his reelection campaign and it comes after Mr. Trump spent more than half of his term facing questions about whether his 2016 campaign conspired with a foreign power.”
But the reason Trump had been “facing questions” was because his team had been set up by foreign spies. Giuliani wanted to go to Ukraine to encourage the government there to get to the bottom of it.
Giuliani told Bream, “I wasn’t going to start an investigation — they already have an investigation of how Ukrainians helped the DNC and Hillary operatives to get, in some cases false, dirty information about the Trump campaign.” He also said he believed that parts of the Steele dossier were written in Ukraine.
Giuliani added that there were fears that the Ukrainian president-elect “would be surrounded by literally enemies of the president” who were involved in the 2016 Russia collusion hoax.
According to the former New York mayor, he would have been “walking into a group of people who are enemies of the president, in some cases enemies of the United States, and in one case, an already convicted person who has been found to be involved in assisting the Democrats with the 2016 presidential election — a gentleman by the name of Leshchenko who supplied a black book that was found to be fraudulent.”
Nazar Kholodnytskyi, the head of Ukraine’s Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office, said on June 27, 2017 that investigators couldn’t prove that Manafort had received the illicit payments listed on the ledger.
According to Chuck Ross at The Daily Caller, “Manafort has been convicted in the special counsel’s probe of tax evasion, bank fraud and other crimes related to his work for Yanukovych. However, he has maintained that Leshchenko’s ledger is a fabrication.”
Leshchenko also appeared to have tried to blackmail Manafort by contacting his daughter with information about Manafort’s Ukraine dealings, the Caller reported.
“Considering all the facts and evidence that are in my possession, and before possible decision whether to pass this to [the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine] or FBI I would like to get your opinion on this and maybe your way to work things out that will persuade me to do otherwise,” reads one message sent to Manafort from an email address linked to Leshchenko.
Giuliani told Bream back in May, “I’m convinced from what I’ve heard from two very reliable people tonight, that the president is surrounded by people who are enemies of the president and people who are, at least in one case, clearly corrupt and involved in this scheme. And it’s really a shame.”
According to the transcript of the July phone call between Trump and Zelensky, Trump mentioned that “a lot of things went on” in Ukraine during the 2016 election, and “I think you’re surrounding yourself with some of the same people.”
It is highly likely that Trump was referring to Leshchenko, ABC’s source, who also recently wrote an oped in the Washington Post accusing Giuliani of lying.
Last April, Ukrainian law enforcement officials told the Hill’s John Solomon that they had evidence of wrongdoing by American Democrats and their allies in Kiev, but complained that they were having trouble getting the Trump Justice Department to act.
“We were supposed to share this information during a working trip to the United States,” said Kostiantyn Kulyk, deputy head of the Prosecutor General’s International Legal Cooperation Department.“However, the [U.S.] ambassador blocked us from obtaining a visa. She didn’t explicitly deny our visa, but also didn’t give it to us.”
During the Trump/Zelensky phone call in July, the Ukraine president agreed with Trump that Marie Louise Yovanovitch was a “bad ambassador,” and said that her attitude toward him was “far from the best.”
Interestingly enough, Trump replied that “she’s going to go through some things.”
Following the same pattern that most Russia hoax “bombshells” followed, in less than 24 hours, ABC’s Leshchenko scoop has unraveled.
Setting record straight: @Leshchenkos confirmed to me what those of us in Kyiv already knew—he is NOT currently an advisor to Ukraine's Zelenskiy & wasn't at time of July 25 call. He said he DID NOT tell ABC insistence for leaders to discuss Biden probe was precondition for call. https://t.co/fNh5sMYj9i
— Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) September 26, 2019
American Greatness has updated its story to reflect that the shady Leshchenko is no longer an adviser to Zelensky.