Sturmvogel 1 22 February 2020.

In late 2013, Ukraine’s president, Viktor Yanukovych, was being advised by Paul Manafort.[1]  The country was headed toward a widely popular trade deal with the European Union (EU).  That deal, in turn, required Ukraine to make serious efforts against the public and private corruption that had characterized the country since it escaped from the Soviet Union.  Suddenly, Yanukovych announced that the deal with the EU had been abandoned in favor of an alternative deal with Russia.  Crowds, as they say, took to the streets with pitch-forks and fiery brands.  Yanukovych left in his socks.  Manafort lost his client and slunk off into far-from-poverty.  Then Ukraine lost the Crimea and a couple of eastern “oblasts” (administrative districts) to Russian intervention.

Post-Yanukovych Ukraine hoped for help from the West, although it still had the same problem with corruption that the previous agreement had sought to address.  The United States and other Western countries slammed economic sanctions on Russia.  They also agree to provide some “non-lethal” aid to Ukraine’s military.[2]

After the fall of Yanukovych, Alexandra Chalupa reportedly agreed to do some pro-bono work for a Ukrainian client.  In the course of this work and for reasons that have not been explained, she started researching Paul Manafort.  This included digging into the Ukrainian “oligarchs” who had sponsored Yanukovych.  Those oligarchs had been pro-Russian.

Donald Trump sounded very pro-Russian on the campaign trail.  So, in late 2015, when his campaign started to look like it might have legs, Chalupa reportedly doubled-down on investigating Trump’s alleged ties to Russia.

In January 2016, long before Manafort had any role in the Trump campaign, Chalupa told an unidentified  contact at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) that, “I felt there was a Russia connection” to the Trump campaign.  “And that, if there was, that we can expect Paul Manafort to be involved in this election.”  By early 2016, she was telling the pro-Democrat Ukrainian-Americans with whom she was in contact that Manafort was “Putin’s political brain for manipulating U.S. foreign policy and elections.”

During a March 2016 meeting at the Ukrainian Embassy on an unrelated matter, Chalupa told Ukraine’s ambassador, Valeriy Chaly,[3] of her concerns.  The ambassador wasn’t much worried about any links between Manafort and Trump because he didn’t think Trump could win the nomination, let alone the election.[4]

Four days later, Trump hired Manafort as his campaign manager.  Alarms bells started ringing.  The next day, Chalupa made a presentation to the communications staff of the DNC[5] on Trump, Manafort, and possible links between Russia and the campaign.

A week later, Chalupa talked over the possibility of a congressional investigation into the allegations with a legislative assistant to Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio).  This talk produced no results.

Later, the DNC encouraged Chalupa to contact the embassy of Ukraine.  Her reported goal was an interview with Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko.  It was hoped that Poroshenko would talk about Manafort and his connection to Yanukovych.  She didn’t get the meeting, but embassy officials did provide her with information and further leads.[6]  Thereafter, “If I asked a question, they would provide guidance, or if there was someone I needed to follow up with.” [But] “There were no documents given, nothing like that.”  In addition, “Chalupa said the embassy also worked directly with reporters researching Trump, Manafort and Russia to point them in the right directions.”

Accounts by Ukrainian diplomats in the embassy at that time differ from one another.  Either the embassy wasn’t doing anything to help the Democrats investigate Trump and Russia, or they were neck-deep in it.[7]  Andrii Telizhenko,[8] who worked as a political officer in the Ukrainian Embassy, has claimed that he “recalled that Chalupa told him and [Deputy Chief of Mission Oksana] Shulyar[9] that, ‘If we can get enough information on Paul [Manafort] or Trump’s involvement with Russia, she can get a hearing in Congress by September [2016]’.”

“In March 2016, [according to an attorney for Perkins Coie] Fusion GPS approached Perkins Coie (a law firm representing both the Clinton campaign and the DNC).  Did Perkins Coie want Fusion GPS to continue the opposition research previously done for a Republican opponent of Donald Trump?  Fusion had, thanks to its earlier work for a contract with a “Never Trump” Republican, a bunch of leads.  These included, according to Jane Mayer, “Trump’s … tax and bankruptcy problems, potential ties to organized crime, and numerous legal entanglements. They also revealed that Trump had an unusually high number of connections to Russians with questionable backgrounds.”[10]  Initially, Fusion GPS focused on Trump’s “business and entertainment activities,” rather than the Russian aspect.[11]

In April 2016, Marc Elias of Perlins Coie agreed to the deal with Fusion GPS.

In late April 2016, Chalupa made a presentation to a group of visiting Ukrainian journalists at an event held at the Library of Congress.[12]  She had invited Michael Isikoff to attend and introduced him to some of the Ukrainians.  Isikoff already was working on Manafort and Ukraine.

In early May 2016, Chalupa e-mailed DNC communications director Luis Miranda about “a big Trump component you and [DNC research director] Lauren [Dillon][13] need to be aware of that will hit in next few weeks and something I’m working on you should be aware of.”  However, her e-mail account had been under sustained attack by a “state-sponsored entity,” so she wanted to present the information in person.

In June 2016, Fusion GPS hired Christopher Steel to investigate Trump’s Russia connections, rather than any of the other potential scandals investigated earlier by Fusion GPS.  .

 

Did Ukrainians alarmed by Donald Trump’s pro-Russian stance on issues feed Alexandra Chalupa information about Trump’s supposed contacts with the Russians?

Did Alexandra Chalupa repeatedly apprise the Democratic National Committee of what she had learned?

Did people at the DNC take these warnings seriously?

Did they hire Fusion GPS to investigate these specific ties, rather than the other ones raised by the earlier Fusion GPS research on behalf of a Republican “Never Trump” sponsor?

Did any of the information provided to Chalupa end up as leads for, or even in, the “Steele Dossier”?

[1] Kenneth P. Vogel and David Stern, “Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump backfire,” Politico, 11 January 2017.  https://www.politico.com/story/2017/01/ukraine-sabotage-trump-backfire-233446  This article inspired push-back.  See: the article in the  conservative Washington Examiner for some mockery: https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/politico-denies-politicos-reporting-on-ukraines-2016-pro-hillary-efforts   On Vogel, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenneth_P._Vogel

[2] A useful starting point on these matters is: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_policy_of_the_Barack_Obama_administration#East_Europe

[3] See the—if you’re a follower of Monty Python–comical description in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valeriy_Chaly_(diplomat)

[4] Nor did I.

[5] On Luis Miranda, then communications director, see: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/09/dnc-names-luis-miranda-as-comms-director/432855/

[6] Hard to understand that unless the ambassador or the foreign minister or the president, Poroshenko, ordered it.

[7] If you spend much time reading about the contemporary Ukraine, you could get the idea that there are a lot of self-interested and devious people in public life.  Makes it difficult to sort out the exact facts.

[8] For a hostile view, see: https://www.thedailybeast.com/andrii-telizhenko-source-for-ukraine-collusion-allegations-met-rep-devin-nunes

[9] See: http://hcdc.clubs.harvard.edu/article.html?aid=1698

[10] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steele_dossier#Research_funded_by_Democrats_produces_dossier

[11] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steele_dossier#Research_funded_by_Democrats_produces_dossier

[12] On the “Open World Program,” see:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_World_Program

[13] See: https://ballotpedia.org/Lauren_Dillon

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