Failed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton may have gotten help by the government of Ukraine, according to an investigation by Politico. An adversary of Russia since Kremlin-puppet Victor Yanukovych was booted from the presidential office, Ukraine’s government not only broke diplomatic protocol by questioning then-Republican candidate Donald Trump’s competence, but officials in Kiev reportedly “disseminated documents implicating a top Trump aide in corruption and suggested they were investigating the matter, only to back away after the election.”
Most notably, “they helped Clinton’s allies research damaging information on Trump,” Politico’s report alleges.
Ukraine’s meddling mirrored Russia’s alleged influence campaign to get Trump elected except for the fact that Kiev’s pro-Clinton push was far less systematically organized and methodically executed.
The intelligence community’s report on Russian hacking accuses Moscow of conducting a cyber-espionage and propaganda war directed from the top-down, implicating high-ranking Russian officials at the top of the chain of command, including Russian President Vladimir Putin. In fact, according to US intelligence services, Putin may have personally involved in spearheading the operation, which included covert and overt methods of subverting Clinton’s public image and bolstering Trump’s candidacy.
But Ukraine’s influence-peddling didn’t even come close to reaching the level of sophistication seen by Russian operatives. Politico explains:
A Ukrainian-American operative who was consulting for the Democratic National Committee met with top officials in the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington in an effort to expose ties between Trump, top campaign aide Paul Manafort and Russia, according to people with direct knowledge of the situation.
The Ukrainian efforts had an impact in the race, helping to force Manafort’s resignation and advancing the narrative that Trump’s campaign was deeply connected to Ukraine’s foe to the east, Russia. But they were far less concerted or centrally directed than Russia’s alleged hacking and dissemination of Democratic emails.
The Ukranian-American operative’s name is Alexandra Chalupa. She’s a longtime Democratic party operative and a Bill Clinton administration alumna.
“Chalupa went on to work as a staffer, then as a consultant, for Democratic National Committee. The DNC paid her $412,000 from 2004 to June 2016, according to Federal Election Commission records, though she also was paid by other clients during that time, including Democratic campaigns and the DNC’s arm for engaging expatriate Democrats around the world,” notes Politico.
Chalupa had seedy political veteran Paul Manafort on her radar long before he was chosen as Trump’s campaign manager. By the time he officially joined Team Trump, she had compiled an encyclopedia of opposition research.
She shared this information with then-DNC communications director Luis Miranda as well as DNC research director Lauren Dillon.
According to Chalupa, Ukrainian government officials helped inform her opposition research against Manafort.
She met with “Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.S., Valeriy Chaly, and one of his top aides, Oksana Shulyar, during a March 2016 meeting at the Ukrainian Embassy,” Politico reports, citing her own testimony.
“If I asked a question, they would provide guidance, or if there was someone I needed to follow up with,” Chalupa said of the Ukranian government officials while maintain that her official request for coordination were denied. “There were no documents given, nothing like that.”
Claiming that the Ukrainian embassy worked directly with reporters researching the Russia-Trump-Manafort axis, the Democratic party operative contended that Ukrainian government officials made a point of marinating an illusion of neutrality.
“They were being very protective and not speaking to the press as much as they should have,” suggested Chalupa. “I think they were being careful because their situation was that they had to be very, very careful because they could not pick sides. It’s a political issue, and they didn’t want to get involved politically because they couldn’t.”
Predictably, the DNC has downplayed its connection with Chalupa.
“A DNC official stressed that Chalupa was a consultant paid to do outreach for the party’s political department, not a researcher,” reports Politico. “She undertook her investigations into Trump, Manafort and Russia on her own, and the party did not incorporate her findings in its dossiers on the subjects, the official said, stressing that the DNC had been building robust research books on Trump and his ties to Russia long before Chalupa began sounding alarms.”
The Clinton campaign may have also indirectly received help from a “former Ukrainian investigative journalist and current parliamentarian named Serhiy Leshchenko, who was elected in 2014 as part of Poroshenko’s party, held a news conference to highlight the ledgers, and to urge Ukrainian and American law enforcement to aggressively investigate Manafort,” explains Politico, adding:
Documents released by an independent Ukrainian government agency — and publicized by a parliamentarian — appeared to show $12.7 million in cash payments that were earmarked for Manafort by the Russia-aligned party of the deposed former president, Yanukovych.
The New York Times, in the August story revealing the ledgers’ existence, reported that the payments earmarked for Manafort were “a focus” of an investigation by Ukrainian anti-corruption officials, while CNN reported days later that the FBI was pursuing an overlapping inquiry.
Clinton’s campaign seized on the story to advance Democrats’ argument that Trump’s campaign was closely linked to Russia. The ledger represented “more troubling connections between Donald Trump’s team and pro-Kremlin elements in Ukraine,” Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager, said in a statement. He demanded that Trump “disclose campaign chair Paul Manafort’s and all other campaign employees’ and advisers’ ties to Russian or pro-Kremlin entities, including whether any of Trump’s employees or advisers are currently representing and or being paid by them.”
The negative media attention forced Manafort to resign as Trump’s campaign manager, opening the door for experienced pollster Kellyanne Conway.
For his part, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has attempted to distance himself from any allegation suggesting that he may have been involved in a sabotage campaign against Trump. Despite his efforts, Poroshenko’s feigned oblivion, performing the role of neutral foreign dignitary with no preference for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, strains credulity.
“But an operative who has worked extensively in Ukraine, including as an adviser to Poroshenko, said it was highly unlikely that either Leshchenko or the anti-corruption bureau would have pushed the issue without at least tacit approval from Poroshenko or his closest allies,” notes Politico.
Moreover, Ukraine’s Ambassador to the United States, Valeriy Chaly, openly penned an editorial questioning Trump’s unconventional judgment calls about Russia’s imperial takeover of Crimea.
Eager to forge a closer anti-terrorism partnership with Russia, Trump has avoided directly criticizing Putin, opting instead for parroting Kremlin talking points, chief among which was the historically revisionist assertion that the Crimean Peninsula never really belonged to Ukraine.
Clearly, Trump’s Russia-sympathetic stances and seemingly Russian-friendly advisers (i.e. Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn) unsettled the Euromaidan-inspired, precariously-formed government in Kiev.
But Kiev has started to back peddle in the days following Trump’s unexpected election victory. With President-elect Trump set to take the oath of office on January 20th, Poroshenko’s government knows that if wants to continue to enjoy US support (or at least symbolic support), it’s going to need to play nice with the next president and his incoming administration.
That’s why Poroshenko has hired an expensive lobbying firm based out of New York to improve relations with the Trump team. So far, they’ve had little success at turning over a new leaf.
Trump has welcomed Manafort into the fold once again, this time, as his unofficial adviser. For now, team Trump wants nothing to do with the Ukrainians.