As Democrats and their allies in the media dismiss charges that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election as a conspiracy theory, three top Republican Senators are working to prove them wrong just in time for the impeachment trial in the Senate.
Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) announced Friday that they are requesting records from and interviews with Alexandra Chalupa, a Democratic consultant and Ukrainian-American activist who met with Ukrainian embassy officials throughout 2016, allegedly on behalf of the DNC. The trio are also seeking records from Andrii Telizkhenko, a former Ukrainian political officer who told Politico that Oksana Shulyar, a top aid to the Ukrainian ambassador, instructed him to assist Chalupa with research to connect Trump and Manafort to the Russians.
According to the Daily Caller, the request is a continuation of Grassley’s 2017 inquiry into possible coordination between the DNC and the Ukrainian embassy to dig up dirt on the Trump campaign.
Chalupa met throughout 2016 with Ukrainian embassy officials, and sought to trade information related to Manafort, who worked through 2014 for former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, on Jan. 11, 2017, Politico reported. Telizhenko told Politico he was directed by his bosses to help Chalupa in the effort.
In addition to Chalupa’s efforts, multiple Ukrainian government officials spoke out against Trump during the 2016 campaign.
One official scrutinized by Republicans is Serhiy Leshchenko, a former Ukrainian parliamentarian who gained international attention in August 2016 for helping publicize the so-called “black ledger” that detailed payments that the Ukrainian Party of Regions allegedly made to Manafort.
Manafort denied receiving the payments, but was forced off the Trump team following reports of the “black ledger.” He was convicted in the special counsel’s investigation of financial crimes related to income from his Ukraine work.
Citing the Politico report in his July 2017 letter to the DOJ, Grassley—then the chairman of the Judiciary Committee—wrote that Chalupa’s actions appeared to show that “she was simultaneously working on behalf of a foreign government, Ukraine, and on behalf of the DNC and Clinton campaign, in an effort to influence not only the U.S voting population but U.S. government officials.”
The Iowa senator wrote in the July 24, 2017 letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that Chalupa’s activities in Ukraine constituted a possible Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) violation.
Indeed, Telizhenko recalled that Chalupa told him and Shulyar, “[i]f we can get enough information on Paul [Manafort] or Trump’s involvement with Russia, she can get a hearing in Congress by September.” Later, Chalupa did reportedly meet with staff in the office of Democratic representative Marcy Kaptur to discuss a congressional investigation. Such a public investigation would not only benefit the Hillary Clinton campaign, but it would benefit the Ukrainian government, which, at the time, was working against the Trump campaign. When Politico attempted to ask Rep. Kaptur’s office about the meeting, the office called it a “touchy subject.”
Aside from the apparent evidence of collusion between the DNC, Clinton campaign, and Ukrainian government, Chalupa’s actions implicate the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). As you know, the Committee is planning a hearing on FARA enforcement. Given the public reporting of these activities in support of a foreign government, it is imperative that the Justice Department explain why she has not been required to register under FARA.
A Kyiv court in December of 2018 ruled that Leshchenko and Ukrainian “anti-corruption” official Artem Sytnyk interfered in the U.S. presidential election by publishing the black ledger documents.
Additionally, Nellie Ohr, a former contractor for Fusion GPS, and wife of DOJ official Bruce Ohr, told lawmakers in October of 2018 that Leshchenko was a source for Fusion, which commissioned the infamous Steele dossier.
Leshchenko has denied that he ever knowingly met with anyone from Fusion GPS however, telling the Caller that he met with Chalupa at least once in 2016 at an event held for the Ukraine diaspora.
Politico reported on Monday that the Senate Intelligence committee, led by Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, conducted its own investigation into the matter and found no evidence that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election, however, Burr refused to confirm the “Fusion” Natasha Bertrand story in an interview with NBC.
“If I investigated I wouldn’t even tell you” he told NBC reporter Frank Thorp.
— Frank Thorp V (@frankthorp) December 3, 2019
Chalupa reportedly denied serving as an intermediary between the DNC and Ukrainian Embassy during her testimony and also alleged that “a Russian active-measure campaign had targeted her.”
The DNC paid Chalupa $412,000 for consulting work from 2004 through June 2016, according to the Daily Caller, although they claim that she communicated with the Ukrainian Embassy on her own accord.
She also worked briefly with a convicted domestic terrorist-turned-activist known as the “Speedway Bomber” while she was digging up dirt on Trump in late 2016, the Caller reported in March of 2017.
The liberal activist was identified as one of nine witnesses Republicans wanted to testify publicly in the House impeachment proceedings.
Chalupa told Politico last month that she was “itching” to testify in the House’s public impeachment hearings “to beat back Republican assertions that Ukrainian officials used her as a conduit for information in 2016 to damage Donald Trump.”
In a statement Friday, Johnson, the chairman of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, criticized the media for dismissing the possibility that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election.
“Contrary to the popular narrative in the ‘main stream media’ that Ukrainian involvement in the 2016 election has been debunked, or ‘no evidence exists,’ there are many unanswered questions that have festered for years,” Johnson said.
Grassley, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, said the DNC-Ukraine link has not yet been “sufficiently examined.”
“While there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, we know that Russia meddled in our democratic processes. However, certain reports of collusion and interference involving Ukrainian officials have not been sufficiently examined, and the few answers that have been given are inadequate,” the Iowa Republican said.