By Jon Dougherty
Now that special counsel Robert Mueller has filed his “Russian collusion” report, in which he noted there wasn’t any between the 2016 Trump campaign and Mother Russia, a new report claims that prosecutors in Ukraine are looking into whether the government released financial data on onetime Trump campaign advisor Paul Manafort in an effort to bolster Hillary Clinton’s election chances.
John Solomon of The Hill reports that in an interview Tuesday on Hill.TV, Ukraine’s top prosecutor, Prosecutor General Yurii Lutsenko, said it seems as though his country’s law enforcement institution purposefully leaked Manafort financial records so as to sway the election in favor of Clinton.
The leak of the so-called black ledger files to U.S. media prompted Manafort’s resignation from the Trump campaign and gave rise to one of the key allegations in the Russia collusion probe that has dogged Trump for the last two and a half years.
Ukraine Prosecutor General Yurii Lutsenko’s probe was prompted by a Ukrainian parliamentarian’s release of a tape recording purporting to quote a top law enforcement official as saying his agency leaked the Manafort financial records to help Clinton’s campaign.
He also secured a court ruling noting the leak amounted to “an illegal intrusion into the American election campaign,” Lutsenko told Solomon.
The prosecutor added that the tape recording is an allegation serious enough to warrant an investigation. He said one of his main issues is that the Ukrainian law enforcement agency involved was in frequent contact with the U.S. Embassy in Kiev at the time — during Obama’s administration.
“Today we will launch a criminal investigation about this and we will give legal assessment of this information,” Lutsenko told me.
We now have strong evidence that retired British spy Christopher Steele began his quest in what ultimately became the infamous Russia collusion dossier with a series of conversations with top Justice Department official Bruce Ohr between December 2015 and February 2016 about securing evidence against Manafort.
We know the FBI set up shop in the U.S. embassy in Kiev to assist its Ukraine–Manafort inquiry — a common practice on foreign-based probes — while using Steele as an informant at the start of its Russia probe. And we know Clinton’s campaign was using a law firm to pay an opposition research firm for Steele’s work in an effort to stop Trump from winning the presidency, at the same time Steele was aiding the FBI.
Those intersections, coupled with the new allegations by Ukraine’s top prosecutor, are reason enough to warrant a serious, thorough investigation.
There’s more. Though it was largely ignored at the time, Politico exposed additional Ukrainian ties to the 2016 Clinton campaign and the candidate herself in an early January 2017 report, just days before the new president-elect Donald Trump was to be inaugurated.
Politico reported that operatives in Ukraine attempted to sabotage Trump’s campaign but that the effort backfired:
Ukrainian government officials tried to help Hillary Clinton and undermine Trump by publicly questioning his fitness for office. They also disseminated documents implicating a top Trump aide in corruption and suggested they were investigating the matter, only to back away after the election. And they helped Clinton’s allies research damaging information on Trump and his advisers, a Politico investigation found.
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.
The Ukrainian antipathy for Trump’s team — and alignment with Clinton’s — can be traced back to late 2013. That’s when the country’s president, Viktor Yanukovych, whom Manafort had been advising, abruptly backed out of a European Union pact linked to anti-corruption reforms. Instead, Yanukovych entered into a multibillion-dollar bailout agreement with Russia, sparking protests across Ukraine and prompting Yanukovych to flee the country to Russia under Putin’s protection.
Politico noted in its report that there was, at the time, “little evidence” of a “top-down effort” — that is, one led by the highest government officials up to an including Ukraine’s president.
But subsequent reporting since that initial January 2017 claim indicates otherwise.
In a column published by The Hill in August 2017 by Matthew Whitaker, then-executive director of the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT) and who would go on to serve as Trump’s interim attorney general, took a closer look at those Clinton-Ukraine connections:
In a tweet last month, Trump said “Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump campaign — ‘quietly working to boost Clinton.’ So where is the investigation A.G.” It even prompted a Ukraine member of parliament, Andre Derkah, to send a letter last month to Ukraine’s prosecutor general requesting “that authorities launch a pretrial investigation into ‘illegal interference in the election of President of the United States organized by a criminal investigation.’” It also raised some very serious concerns for our organization, the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT).
This month, FACT filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) against the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and its Ukrainian-American consultant, Alexandra Chalupa, for knowingly soliciting and accepting illegal, in-kind contributions from the Ukrainian government.
Specifically, the complaint contends that, last year, Ukrainian-American operative and DNC consultant, Alexandra Chalupa met with Ukrainian government officials to get information in an effort to expose ties between Trump, his former campaign manager Paul Manafort and Russia. As reported, a political officer in the Ukrainian Embassy was instructed to help Chalupa conduct research on connections between Trump, Manafort and Russia. The DNC subsequently acknowledged that it had knowledge of the research.
Politico reported extensively on Chalupa’s involvement but did not characterize it in the same way — as an effort to bolster Hillary’s campaign — as Whitaker did.
Whitaker, a former U.S. attorney, wrote that in-kind contributions consist of “anything of value, including information and leads, the fruits of paid research, or similar investigatory activity, to a political committee.”
As such, “since Chalupa allegedly engaged in both activities as a DNC staffer, this collusion would constitute an illegal, in-kind contribution,” he wrote.
“And, even though the DNC claimed it ‘did not incorporate [Chalupa’s] findings in its dossiers on the subjects,’ that would be irrelevant as the DNC solicited and received valuable opposition research,” he noted further.
Solomon noted that Lutsenko revealed a problematic detail to him: “The U.S. Embassy and the chief Ukrainian prosecutor, who America entrusts with fighting corruption inside an allied country, currently have a dysfunctional relationship.”
Lutsenko accused the Obama-era U.S. Embassy of interfering with his efforts to prosecute corruption cases in 2016. He said the U.S. ambassador provided him a list of defendants that he wouldn’t be permitted to investigate, then refused to cooperate in an early probe into alleged misappropriation of American aid in the country.
Lutsenko accused the Obama-era U.S. Embassy in 2016 of interfering in his ability to prosecute corruption cases, saying the U.S. ambassador gave him a list of defendants that he would not be allowed to pursue and then refused to cooperate in an early investigation into the alleged misappropriation of U.S. aid in Ukraine.
And last year, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) wrote a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asking that he consider recalling the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine after he was informed she was making disparaging comments about POTUS Trump and the current U.S. administration.
Per The Hill:
Sessions Pompeo corresponde… by on Scribd
The ambassador “has spoken privately and repeatedly about her disdain for the current administration in a way that might call for the expulsion” of America’s top diplomat in Ukraine, Sessions noted in his letter.
Finally, in August 2016, The Wall Street Journal reported that Clinton, while secretary of state, hosted a dinner “involving Clinton Foundation donors, including a Ukrainian businessman who had given money to the organization and who had retained a lobbyist to arrange State Department meetings.”
The dinner attended by Victor Pinchuk four years ago was mentioned in a new batch of State Department emails obtained by the conservative group Citizens United through public records requests and released on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, a report Tuesday by the Associated Press based on a partial release of State Department calendars showed that at least 85 of 154 people outside government who met or spoke on the phone with Mrs. Clinton when she was secretary of state donated funds to the Clinton Foundation. The review showed the donors had collectively given up to $156 million.
Meanwhile, Manafort faces the prospect of dying in prison while Hillary — doesn’t.
Not yet, anyway.
- Follow Jon Dougherty on Twitter at @JonDougherty10
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