“That sounds like big, big stuff, and I’m not surprised.”
A DNC contractor tried to collude with Ukraine to swing the 2016 election in favor of Hillary Clinton, the country’s ambassador to the United States admitted Thursday.
Valeriy Chaly said that Alexandra Chalupa asked the embassy in Washington for financial information about then-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s dealings in Ukraine. He said Chalupa also pushed for the president of Ukraine at the time, Petro Poroshenko, to mention Manafort’s ties to the country during a visit to the United States.
According to Chaly, the Ukrainian Embassy had not known that Chalupa was a consultant for the Democratic National Committee. He claimed to have “unambiguously refused” her requests.
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“The Embassy got to know Ms. Chalupa because of her engagement with Ukrainian and other diasporas in Washington D.C., and not in her DNC capacity. We’ve learned about her DNC involvement later,” he said. “We were surprised to see Alexandra’s interest in Mr. Paul Manafort’s case. It was her own cause. The Embassy representatives unambiguously refused to get involved in any way, as we were convinced that this is a strictly U.S. domestic matter.”
In a January 2017 Politico report on the subject, the embassy broadly denied that it had meddled in the U.S. election and claimed it had met with Chalupa to organize an event celebrating women leaders. The DNC later told CNN that it had never colluded with a foreign power.
But Chalupa said that the embassy had helped her, as well as a number of reporters, in their efforts to dig up dirt on Trump and Manafort. She also said that the DNC had encouraged her work and that she had occasionally shared her findings with officials from the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Federal Election Commission records showed that Chalupa’s firm in 2016 provided various services to the DNC, as well as other clients, and that the DNC paid her more than $412,000 between 2004 and 2016. She has since stopped advising the DNC.
Meanwhile, a former Ukrainian diplomat in Washington, Andrii Telizhenko, acknowledged that his boss, Oskana Shulvar, tasked him with assisting Chalupa in the manner she described, though Shulyar claimed otherwise. And an unnamed ex-DNC staffer confirmed that Chalupa had briefed the DNC on her research with the embassy.
Neither Chalupa or the DNC responded to media requests for comment on Thursday.
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Despite the Democrats’ best efforts, of course, Trump went on to win the presidency.
His first two years in the White House have been plagued by federal law enforcement investigations into whether his campaign colluded with Russia. But Special Counsel Robert Mueller last month effectively cleared the Trump team of that charge. Based on the Mueller report, Attorney General William Barr determined that the president had also not obstructed justice.
Republicans have since stepped up their complaints about how the Justice Department treated Trump – which Barr has agreed to look into – as well as their allegations that the Democrats were the ones who colluded with a foreign power.
Beyond the Ukrainian Embassy, officials in the former Soviet bloc country interfered in the 2016 election by publicly criticizing Trump and leaking documents implicating Manafort in corruption, which contributed to his resignation. According to reports, the officials sought to assure the election of Clinton, whom they deemed a more reliable ally than Trump against Russian aggression.
Ukraine Prosecutor General Yurii Lutsenko last month opened an investigation the release of the Manafort documents after an audio recording emerged of a senior Ukrainian anticorruption official apparently admitting that he had made them public in hopes of helping to elect Clinton.
Earlier this month, Ukrainian law enforcement officials said that the probe had turned up reams of evidence of collusion and wrongdoing by Democrats, which they said they were trying to share with the U.S. Justice Department.
In an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity last week, Trump suggested Barr would want to see what Ukrainians had uncovered.
“I would imagine he would want to see this,” he said. “It sounds like big stuff, very interesting with Ukraine. I just spoke with the new president a while ago, and congratulated him. … But that sounds like big, big stuff, and I’m not surprised.”
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