We are certainly getting an education about Ukraine, aren’t we?
Smartest kids in the class.
Ukraine Worked With Democrats Against Trump in Election 2016 to Stop Putin. That Bet Backfired Badly.
Ukrainian-Democratic coordination traces back to 2014, when then-Obama Vice President Joe Biden helped install Petro Poroshenko in Kiev. Then came collusion against Trump.
By Paul Sperry, RealClearInvestigations
March 10, 2022
Six years ago, before Russia’s full-scale invasion of their country, the Ukrainians bet that a Hillary Clinton presidency would offer better protection from Russian President Vladimir Putin, even though he had invaded Crimea during the Obama-Biden administration, whose Russian policies Clinton vowed to continue.
Ukraine worked with Hillary Clinton and the Democrats against Donald Trump as protection against President Vladimir Putin of Russia …
Working with both the Obama administration and the Clinton campaign, Ukrainian government officials intervened in the 2016 race to help Clinton and hurt Donald Trump in a sweeping and systematic foreign influence operation that’s been largely ignored by the press. The improper, if not illegal, operation was run chiefly out of the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington, where officials worked hand-in-glove with a Ukrainian-American activist and Clinton campaign operative to attack the Trump campaign. The Obama White House was also deeply involved in an effort to groom their own favored leader in Ukraine and then work with his government to dig up dirt on – and even investigate — their political rival.
Ukrainian and Democratic operatives also huddled with American journalists to spread damaging information on Trump and his advisers – including allegations of illicit Russian-tied payments that, though later proved false, forced the resignation of his campaign manager Paul Manafort. The embassy actually weighed a plan to get Congress to investigate Manafort and Trump and stage hearings in the run-up to the election.
As it worked behind the scenes to undermine Trump, Ukraine also tried to kneecap him publicly. Ukraine’s ambassador took the extraordinary step of attacking Trump in an Op-Ed article published in The Hill, an influential U.S. Capitol newspaper, while other top Ukrainian officials slammed the GOP candidate on social media.
Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.S. attacked Trump in an Op-Ed weeks before the 2016 election.
At first glance, it was a bad bet as Trump upset Clinton. But by the end of his first year in office, Trump had supplied Ukrainians what the Obama administration refused to give them: tank-busting Javelin missiles and other lethal weapons to defend themselves against Russian incursions. Putin never invaded on Trump’s watch. Instead, he launched an all-out invasion during another Democratic administration – one now led by President Biden, Barack Obama’s former Vice President, whose Secretary of State last year alarmed Putin by testifying, “We support Ukraine’s membership in NATO.” Biden boasted he’d go “toe to toe” with Putin, but that didn’t happen as the autocrat amassed tanks along Ukraine’s border in response to the NATO overtures.
The Ukrainian mischief is part of Special Counsel John Durham’s broader inquiry – now a full-blown criminal investigation with grand jury indictments – into efforts to falsely target Trump as a Kremlin conspirator in 2016 and beyond.
Sources say Durham has interviewed several Ukrainians, but it’s not likely the public will find out exactly what he’s learned about the extent of Ukraine’s meddling in the election until he releases his final report, which sources say could be several months away.
In the meantime, a comprehensive account of documented Ukrainian collusion – including efforts to assist the FBI in its 2016 probe of Manafort – is pieced together here for the first time. It draws from an archive of previously unreported records generated from a secret Federal Election Commission investigation of the Democratic National Committee that includes never-before-reviewed sworn affidavits, depositions, contracts, emails, text messages, legal findings and other documents from the case. RealClearInvestigations also examined diplomatic call transcripts, White House visitor logs, lobbying disclosure forms, congressional reports and closed-door congressional testimony, as well as information revealed by Ukrainian and Democratic officials in social media postings, podcasts and books.
Prelude to Collusion
U.S. envoys Victoria Nuland and Geoffrey Pyatt helped bring to power Ukraine’s Petro Poroshenko, right.
The coordination between Ukrainian and Democratic officials can be traced back at least to January 2014. It was then when top Obama diplomats – many of whom now hold top posts in the Biden administration – began engineering regime change in Kiev, eventually installing a Ukrainian leader they could control.
On Jan. 27, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt phoned Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland at her home in Washington to discuss picking opposition leaders to check the power of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, whom they believed was too cozy with Putin. “We’ve got to do something to make it stick together,” Pyatt said of a planned coalition government, adding that they needed “somebody with an international personality to come out here and help to midwife this thing.”
Nuland responded that Biden’s security adviser Jake Sullivan had just told her that the vice president – who was acting as Obama’s point man in Ukraine – would give his blessing to the deal. “Biden’s willing,” she said. But they agreed they had to “move fast” and bypass the European Union. “Fuck the EU,” Nuland told the ambassador, according to a leaked transcript of their call.
Hunter Biden: His father helped engineer the rise of an amenable Ukrainian leader who would later fire a prosecutor investigating the son.
Nuland’s role in the political maneuvering was not limited to phone calls. She traveled to Kiev and helped organize street demonstrations against Yanukovych, even handing out sandwiches to protesters. In effect, Obama officials greased a revolution. Within months, Yanukovych was exiled and replaced by Petro Poroshenko, who would later do Biden’s bidding – including firing a prosecutor investigating his son Hunter. Poroshenko would also later support Clinton’s White House bid after Biden decided not to run, citing the death of his older son Beau.
The U.S. meddling resulted in the installation of an anti-Putin government next door to Russia. A furious Putin viewed the interference as an attempted coup and soon marched into Crimea.
Nuland is now Biden’s undersecretary of state and Sullivan serves as his national security adviser.
Whispering in their ear at the time was a fiery pro-Ukraine activist and old Clinton hand, Alexandra “Ali” Chalupa. A daughter of Ukrainian immigrants, Chalupa informally advised the State Department and White House in early 2014. She organized multiple meetings between Ukraine experts and the National Security Council to push for Yanukovych’s ouster and economic sanctions against Putin.
In the NSC briefings, Chalupa also agitated against longtime attorney-lobbyist Manafort, who at the time was an American consultant for Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, which she viewed as a cat’s paw of Putin. She warned that Manafort worked for Putin’s interests and posed a national security threat.
At the same time, Chalupa worked closely with then-Vice President Biden’s team, setting up conference calls with his staff and Ukrainians.
Another influential adviser at the time was former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, who provided Nuland with written reports on the Ukrainian crisis and Russia that echoed Chalupa’s warnings. Nuland treated them as classified intelligence, and between the spring of 2014 and early 2016, she received some 120 reports on Ukraine and Russia from Steele.
The Move Against
Paul Manafort: Targeted by Chalupa over work for the ousted Ukrainian president and ties to Trump.
In April 2015, the DNC hired Chalupa as a $5,000-a-month consultant, according to a copy of her contract, which ran through the 2016 election cycle. (Years earlier, Chalupa had worked full-time for the DNC as part of the senior leadership team advising Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.) After Trump threw his hat in the ring in June 2015, Chalupa grew concerned that Manafort was or would be involved with his campaign since Manafort had known Trump for decades and lived in Trump Tower. She expressed her concerns to top DNC officials and “the DNC asked me to do a hit on Trump,” according to a transcript of a 2019 interview on her sister’s podcast. (Andrea Chalupa, who describes herself as a journalist, boasted in a November 2016 tweet: “My sister led Trump/Russia research at DNC.”)
Chalupa began encouraging journalists both in America and Ukraine to dig into Manafort’s dealings in Ukraine and expose his alleged Russian connections. She fed unsubstantiated rumors, tips and leads to the Washington Post and New York Times, as well as CNN, speaking to reporters on background so a DNC operative wouldn’t be sourced.
“I spent many, many hours working with reporters on background, directing them to contacts and sources, and giving them information,” Chalupa said.
But no reporter worked closer with her than Yahoo News correspondent Michael Isikoff. He even accompanied her to the Ukrainian Embassy, where they brainstormed attacks on Manafort and Trump, according to FEC case files.
Chalupa was also sounding alarm bells in the White House. In November 2015, for example, she set up a White House meeting between a Ukrainian delegation including Ukraine Ambassador Valeriy Chaly and NSC advisers – among them Eric Ciaramella, a young CIA analyst on loan to the White House who later would play a significant role as anonymous “whistleblower” in Trump’s first impeachment. In addition to Putin’s aggression, the group discussed the alleged security threat from Manafort. Chalupa was back in the White House in December. All told, she would visit the Obama White House at least 27 times, Secret Service logs show, including attending at least one event with the president in 2016.
Eric Ciaramella (middle right) across from Ukrainians in a June 2015 meeting at the White House, flanked by Biden security adviser Michael Carpenter and Ciaramella’s NSC colleague Liz Zentos.
With Ukrainians in the White House
On Jan. 12, 2016 – almost a month before the first GOP primary – Chalupa told top DNC official Lindsey Reynolds she was seeing strong indications that Putin was trying to steal the 2016 election for Trump. Emails also show that she promised to lead an effort to expose Manafort – whom Trump would not officially hire as his campaign chairman until May – and link him and Trump to the Russian government. That same day, Chalupa visited the White House.
Andrii Telizhenko, Ukrainian official: He said Obama’s Justice Department sought political dirt from Ukraine. Later Trump did too. He was impeached for it.
A week later, Obama officials gathered with Ukrainian officials traveling from Kiev in the White House for a series of senior-level meetings to, among other things, discuss reviving a long-closed investigation into payments to American consultants working for the Party of Regions, according to Senate documents. The FBI had investigated Manafort in 2014 but no charges resulted.
One of the attendees, Ukrainian Embassy political officer Andrii Telizhenko, recalled Justice Department officials asking investigators with Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau, or NABU, if they could help find fresh evidence of party payments to such U.S. figures. (Three years later, Democrats would impeach Trump for allegedly asking Ukraine to dig up dirt on a political rival, Joe Biden.)
The Obama administration’s enforcement agencies leaned on their Ukrainian counterparts to investigate Manafort, shifting resources from an investigation of a corrupt Ukrainian energy oligarch who paid Biden’s son hundreds of thousands of dollars through his gas company, Burisma.
“Obama’s NSC hosted Ukrainian officials and told them to stop investigating Hunter Biden and start investigating Paul Manafort.”
“Obama’s NSC hosted Ukrainian officials and told them to stop investigating Hunter Biden and start investigating Paul Manafort,” said a former senior NSC official who has seen notes and emails generated from the meetings and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Suddenly, the FBI reopened its Manafort investigation. “In January 2016, the FBI initiated a money laundering and tax evasion investigation of Manafort predicated on his activities as a political consultant to members of the Ukrainian government and Ukrainian politicians,” according to a report by the Justice Department’s watchdog.
The White House summit with Ukrainian officials ran for three days, ending on Jan. 21, according to a copy of the agenda stamped with the Justice Department logo. It was organized and hosted by Ciaramella and his colleague Liz Zentos from the NSC. Other U.S. officials included Justice prosecutors and FBI agents, as well as State Department diplomats. The Ukrainian delegation included Artem Sytnyk, the head of NABU, and other Ukrainian prosecutors.
Ciaramella was a CIA detailee to the White House occupying the NSC’s Ukraine desk in 2015 and 2016. In that role, Ciaramella met face-to-face with top Ukrainian officials and provided policy advice to Biden through the then-vice president’s security adviser Michael Carpenter. He also worked with Nuland and Chalupa.Ciaramella was carried over to the Trump White House. As RealClearInvestigations first reported, he would later anonymously blow the whistle on Trump asking Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to help “get to the bottom of” Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 election, a phone call that triggered Trump’s first impeachment by a Democrat-controlled House. Ciaramella’s former NSC colleague Alexander Vindman leaked the call to him. Vindman, a Ukrainian-American, is also aligned with Chalupa. (Vindman is now back in the news for his demands that the United States provide more active military support to Ukraine and his insistence that Trump shares great blame for the war.)
As Manafort drew closer to Trump, Obama officials zeroed in, and the FBI reopened a closed 2014 probe.
Justice Department Office of the Inspector General
Obama White House-Ukraine
On Feb. 2, two weeks after the White House meetings, Secret Service logs reveal that Ciaramella met in the White House with officials from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, known as FinCEN, which would later provide the FBI highly sensitive bank records on Manafort. (In addition, a senior FinCEN adviser illegally leaked thousands of the confidential Manafort records to the media.)
On Feb. 9, less than a month after the White House summit, Telizhenko, who worked for the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, met with Zentos of the NSC at a Cosi sandwich shop in Washington, according to emails obtained by the Senate. It’s not known what they discussed. In addition, on Feb. 23, the two emailed about setting up another meeting the following day. “OK if I bring my colleague Eric, who works on Ukraine with me?” Zentos asked Telizhenko, apparently referring to Ciaramella. In the emails, they discussed the U.S. primary elections, among other things.
NSC’s Zentos and Ukraine’s Telizhenko would meet and correspond numerous times during 2016.
HSGAC-Finance Committee Hunter Biden Report
Telizhenko would later testify that Ambassador Chaly had ordered him then to “start an investigation [into the Trump campaign] within the embassy just on my own to find out with my contacts if there’s any Russian connection that we can report back.” He suspects the Ambassador delivered that report to Chalupa and the DNC. Chalupa visited the White House on Feb. 22, entrance records show, just days before the second meeting Telizhenko had planned with Zentos.
Manafort Messaging Assault
After Manafort was named Trump campaign chair, the campaign against him went into overdrive.
New York Times
On March 3, Zentos and Telizhenko planned to meet again, this time at a Washington bar called The Exchange. According to their email, Zentos wrote, “I’ll see if my colleague Eric is up for joining.” The pair also met the next day at Swing’s coffee house in Washington. After the meeting, Telizhenko emailed Zentos seeking a meeting with senior Obama NSC official Charlie Kupchan, an old Clinton hand who was Ciaramella’s boss on the Russia/Ukraine desk. Kupchan is an outspoken critic of Trump who has made remarks suggesting what countries “can do to stop him” and “protect the international institutions we’ve built .” Zentos and Telizhenko also met on March 10, patronizing the Cosi coffee shop again.
On March 24, 2016, four days before the Trump campaign announced that it had hired Manafort, Chalupa met at the Ukrainian Embassy with Ambassador Chaly and his political counselor Oksana Shulyar, where they shared their concerns about Manafort, according to Politico.
When news broke on March 28 that Manafort was joining the Trump campaign, Chalupa could hardly contain herself. “This is huge,” she texted senior DNC officials. “This is everything to take out Trump.”
She immediately began circulating anti-Manafort memos, warning the DNC of the “threat” he posed of Russian influence. The next day, March 29, she briefed the DNC communications team about Manafort. They, in turn, hatched a plan to reach out to the Ukrainian Embassy to get President Porochenko to make an on-camera denouncement of Manafort and feed the footage to ABC News, where former Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos works as a top anchor. On March 30, Chalupa fired off an email to Shulyar, her contact at the Ukrainian Embassy:
“There is a very good chance that President Poroshenko may receive a question from the press during his visit about the recent New York Times article saying that Donald Trump hired Paul Manafort as an adviser to his campaign and whether President Poroshenko is concerned about this considering Trump is the likely Republican nominee and given Paul Manafort’s meddling in Ukraine over the past couple of decades,” Chalupa wrote. “It is important President Poroshenko is prepared to address this question should it come up. In a manner that exposes Paul Manafort for the problems he continues to cause Ukraine.”
Within minutes of sending the email, Chalupa wrote the DNC’s communications director Luis Miranda, “The ambassador has the messaging.”
Then she reached out to a friend in Congress, Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, about holding hearings to paint Manafort as a pro-Kremlin villain.
Chalupa Solicits Ukrainian Dirt on Trump,
His Campaign, and Manafort
In an FEC probe, accounts differed on whether Chalupa discussed Trump “dirt” with Ukrainians.
Federal Election Commission
American presidential campaigns aren’t supposed to work with foreign governments to dig up dirt on their political opponents. Geneva Convention rules bar diplomats from becoming entangled in their host country’s political affairs, particularly elections. There are also federal laws banning foreign nationals from engaging in operations to influence or interfere with U.S. political and electoral processes. In 2018, Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals on charges of conspiring to defraud the U.S. government for that purpose.
But just weeks after Manafort was hired by the Trump campaign, the Ukrainian Embassy appeared to be working with the Clinton campaign to torpedo him and the campaign.
Emails reveal that Chalupa and Shulyar, a top aide to Ambassador Chaly, agreed to meet for coffee on April 7, 2016, at Kafe Leopold, a restaurant near the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington. (Chalupa had paid a visit to the White House just three days earlier.) One of the purposes of the meeting, according to FEC case files, was to discuss Manafort and the danger he allegedly posed. They were joined at the café by Telizhenko, who said he was working on a “big story” on Manafort and Trump with the Wall Street Journal.
In a sworn 2019 deposition taken by the FEC, Telizhenko alleged that Chalupa solicited “dirt” on Trump, Manafort, and the Trump campaign during the meeting. Telizhenko also testified that Chalupa told him that her goal was “basically [to] use this information and have a committee hearing under Marcy Kaptur, congresswoman from Ohio, in Congress in September and take him off the elections.”
Telizhenko later approached Ambassador Chaly about the DNC representative’s overtures and he responded: “Yes. And I know that this is happening. You should work with her.”
After speaking with Chaly, Telizhenko claims that he went back to Shulyar who instructed him to help Chalupa. “I went to Oksana and said, ‘Like what are we doing?’” he testified. ” And she told me, ‘You have to work with Chalupa. And any information you have, you give it to me, I’ll give it to her, then we’ll pass it on later to anybody else we are coordinating with.’”
Less than a week later, on April 13, Telizhenko met again with White House official Zentos, email records reveal.
Telizhenko said he resigned the next month because of concerns regarding his embassy’s work with Chalupa and the Clinton team.
In her sworn account of the meeting, Chalupa acknowledged discussing Manafort and the “national security problem” he allegedly presented, but denied asking the embassy for help researching him. She allowed that she “could have mentioned the congressional investigation … that I had talked to Marcy Kaptur,” but maintained she couldn’t recall trying to enlist the embassy in the effort.
Shulyar, however, clearly recalls that Chalupa sought the embassy’s help warning the public about Manafort – including pitching stories to the press and lobbying Congress, according to a 2020 written statement to the FEC. An “idea floated by Alexandra Chalupa was that we approach a co-chair of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus to initiate a congressional hearing on Paul Manafort,” Shulyar said, though she denied the embassy acted on the idea.
Around the same time, two Ukrainian lawmakers – Olga Bielkova and Pavlo Rizanenko – visited the U.S. and met with journalists, as well as a former State Department official with close ties to Sen. John McCain – David Kramer of the McCain Institute. Kramer would later leak the entire Steele dossier to the media. The meeting was arranged by major Clinton Foundation donor Victor Pinchuk, a Ukrainian oligarch who lobbied Clinton when she was Obama’s secretary of state. Bielkova was also connected to the Clinton Foundation, having once managed a Clinton Global Initiative program for Ukrainian college students.
While Clinton was at Foggy Bottom from 2009 to 2013, Ukrainians gave more money – at least $10 million, including more than $8 million from Pinchuk – to the Clinton Foundation than any other nationality including Saudi Arabians. Pinchuk’s donation was a down payment on an astounding $29 million pledge.
On April 12, 2016, Bielkova also attended a meeting with Ciaramella and his NSC colleague Zentos, head of the Eastern Europe desk, according to lobbying disclosure records.
In late April, Chalupa helped organize a Ukrainian-American protest against Manafort in his Connecticut hometown. Activists shouted for Trump to fire Manafort, whom they called “Putin’s Trojan Horse,” while holding signs that read: “Shame on Putin, Shame on Manafort, Shame on Trump” and “Putin, Hands Off the U.S. Election.” Chalupa also organized social media campaigns against Manafort and Trump, including one that encouraged activists to share the Twitter hashtags: “#TrumpPutin” and “#Treasonous Trump.”
Also that month, Chalupa reached out to Yahoo News reporter Isikoff to pitch a hit piece on Manafort. She connected him with a delegation of Ukrainian journalists visiting D.C. Isikoff would later be used by Steele to spread falsehoods from his dossier.
Manafort Dirt Spreads
In a May 3 email, Chalupa alerted DNC communications director Luis Miranda and DNC opposition research director Lauren Dillion that there was “a lot more [dirt on Manafort] coming down the pipe[sic].”
Nellie Ohr, Fusion GPS researcher: Emailed her husband Bruce at Justice about documents found by Ukrainian authorities purportedly showing Manafort receiving illicit payments.
Chalupa told them the dirt has “a big Trump component” and would “hit in the next few weeks.” It’s not clear if she was referring to the notorious “black ledger” smear against Manafort, who was promoted to campaign chairman on May 19, but a story about it was brewing at the time.
On May 30, Nellie Ohr, an opposition researcher for the Clinton-retained firm Fusion GPS, emailed her husband, Bruce Ohr, a top official at the Justice Department who would become a prime disseminator of the Steele dossier within the government, and two federal prosecutors to alert them to an article indicating NABU had suddenly discovered documents allegedly showing Manafort receiving illicit payments.
Amid the flurry of anti-Manafort activity, Zentos met again with Telizhenko on May 4, records show. And Chalupa visited the White House for a meeting on May 13.
Chalupa paid another visit to the White House on June 14, Secret Service logs show. On June 17, Ciaramella held a White House meeting with Nuland and Pyatt of the State Department to discuss undisclosed Ukrainian matters.
In late June, the FBI signed an evidence-sharing agreement with NABU, less than two months before the Ukrainian anti-corruption agency released what it claimed was explosive new evidence on Manafort.
Ukrainian Officials Attack
Chalupa continued to pow-wow with the Ukrainian Embassy and got so cozy with officials there that they offered her a position, which she declined, as an “embedded consultant” in the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
That same month, high-ranking Ukrainian officials openly insulted Trump on social media in an unusual departure from normal diplomacy.
“It was clear that they were supporting Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. They did everything from organizing meetings with the Clinton team to publicly supporting her to criticizing Trump.”
For instance, Ukraine Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov tweeted that Trump was a “clown” who was “an even bigger danger to the U.S. than terrorism.” In another July post, he called Trump “dangerous for Ukraine.” And on Facebook, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk warned that Trump had “challenged the very values of the free world.”
(After Trump upset Clinton, Avakov and other officials tried to delete their statements from their social network accounts, saying that they had been wrong and had rushed to conclusions.)
“It was clear that they were supporting Hillary Clinton’s candidacy,” Ukrainian lawmaker Andriy Artemenko told Politico. “They did everything from organizing meetings with the Clinton team to publicly supporting her to criticizing Trump.”
While attending the Democratic convention in Philadelphia, Chalupa spread the scurrilous rumor that Manafort was the mastermind behind the alleged Russian hacking of the DNC and that he “stole” her and other Democrats’ emails. She later told her sister’s podcast that she had reported her conspiracy theory to the FBI, eventually sitting down and meeting with agents in September to spin her tale of supposed espionage (the Senate has asked the FBI for copies of her interview summaries, known as FD-302s). Chalupa also prepared a report for the FBI, as well as members of Congress, detailing her Russiagate conspiracy theories, which Mueller later found no evidence to support.
In addition, Chalupa helped spread a false narrative that Trump removed a reference to providing arms to Kiev from the Republican platform at the party’s convention earlier that month. Internal platform committee documents show the Ukraine plank could not have been weakened as claimed, because the “lethal” weapons language had never been part of the GOP platform. The final language actually strengthened the platform by pledging direct assistance not just to the country of Ukraine, but to its military in its struggle against Russian-backed forces.
The Phony Manafort Ledger Leaks
A page released by Ukrainian authorities from the fake Manafort ledger.
New York Times/NABU
In another attempt to influence the 2016 election, Ukrainian lawmaker Serhiy Leshchenko leaked to the U.S. media what he claimed was evidence of a secret handwritten ledger showing Manafort had received millions in cash from Yanukovych’s party under the table. He claimed that 22 pages of the alleged ledger, which contained line items written by hand, had mysteriously appeared in his parliament mailbox earlier that year. Leshchenko would not identify the sender. A fuller copy of the same document showed up later on the doorstep of a Ukrainian intelligence official who passed it to NABU, which shared it with FBI agents stationed in Kiev. Leshchenko and NABU officials held press conferences declaring the document was “proof” of Manafort corruption and demanding he be “interrogated.”
The Clinton campaign seized on the story. In an Aug. 14 statement, campaign manager Robby Mook stated: “We have learned of more troubling connections between Donald Trump’s team and pro-Kremlin elements in Ukraine.” He demanded Trump “disclose campaign chair Paul Manafort’s and all other campaign employees’ and advisers’ ties to Russian or pro-Kremlin entities.”
But there was a big hole in the story. Though Manafort was a consultant to Yanukovych’s party, he was paid by wire, not in cash, casting serious doubt on the ledger’s authenticity. Another problem: the ledger was alleged to have been kept at party headquarters, but rioters had destroyed the building in a 2014 fire.
Leshchenko admitted that he had a political agenda. He told The Financial Times at the time that he went public with the ledger because “a Trump presidency would change the pro-Ukrainian agenda in American foreign policy.” He added that most of Ukraine’s politicians are “on Hillary Clinton’s side.”
Leshchenko also happened to be “a source for Fusion GPS,” as Nellie Ohr confirmed under questioning during a 2019 closed-door House hearing, according to a declassified transcript. Fusion was a paid agent of the Clinton campaign, which gave the private opposition-research firm more than $1 million to gin up connections between Trump and Russia. Fusion hired Steele to compile a series of “intelligence” memos known as the dossier. As a former MI6 operative, Steele gave the allegations a sheen of credibility.
“The ledger and the dossier are both Fusion hit jobs. The two items shared a common origin: the Hillary campaign’s oppo research shop.”
Mark Wauck, ex-FBI official
FBI counterintelligence veteran Mark Wauck said the dossier and the black ledger both appear to have originated with Fusion GPS, which laundered it through foreigners who hated Trump – Steele and Leshchenko.
“The ledger and the dossier are both Fusion hit jobs,” Wauck said. “The two items shared a common origin: the Hillary campaign’s oppo research shop.”
In an August 2016 memo written for Fusion GPS, “The Demise of Trump’s Campaign Manager Paul Manafort,” Steele claimed he had corroborated Leshchenko’s charges through his anonymous Kremlin sources, who turned out to be nothing more than beer buddies of his primary source collector, Igor Danchenko, a Russian immigrant with a string of arrests in the U.S. for public intoxication, as RealClearInvestigations first reported. Danchenko had worked for the Brookings Institution, a Democratic think tank in Washington that Durham has subpoenaed in connection to its own role in Russiagate. Danchenko was indicted last year by Special Counsel Durham for lying about his sources, including one he completely made up, as RCI reported.
“YANUKOVYCH had confided in PUTIN that he did authorize and order substantial kick-back payments to MANAFORT as alleged,” Steele claimed in the unsubstantiated report, citing “a well-placed Russian figure” with knowledge of a “meeting between PUTIN and YANUKOVYCH” allegedly “held in secret” on Aug. 15. As a paid informant, Steele had long reported to the FBI about alleged corruption involving Yanukovych.
The FBI used his Clinton-funded dossier as a basis to obtain warrants to spy on former Trump adviser Carter Page, including the false claim that Page acted as an intermediary between Russian leadership and Manafort in a “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” that included sidelining Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue. Steele also falsely claimed that Page had helped draft the RNC platform statement to be more sympathetic to Russia’s interests by eliminating language about providing weapons to Ukraine, according to a reportby the Department of Justice’s watchdog. In fact, Page was not involved in the GOP platform. The misinformation came from Danchenko’s fictional source.
Fusion co-founder Glenn Simpson worked closely with the New York Times on the Manafort ledger story. In his book, “Crime in Progress,” Simpson boasts of introducing Leshchenko to the Times as a source, who ended up providing the paper some of the dubious ledger records. On Aug. 19, Manafort stepped down from the Trump campaign the day after the Times reported what it had been fed by the anti-Trump operatives.
In effect, Ukrainian government officials tried to help Clinton and undermine Trump by disseminating documents implicating a top Trump aide in corruption and telling the American media they were investigating the matter.
In 2018, a Ukrainian court ruled that Leshchenko and NABU’s Sytnyk illegally interfered in the 2016 U.S. election by publicizing the black ledger. Among the evidence was a recording of Sytnyk saying the agency released the ledger to help Clinton’s campaign – “I helped her,” Sytnyk is recorded boasting. But the damage was done. The Ukrainians, along with Chalupa and the Clinton camp, achieved their goal of undermining the Trump campaign by prompting Manafort’s ouster though they never proved he was colluding with the Russians. Neither did Special Counsel Mueller. In fact, Mueller did not use the ledger to prosecute Manafort after a key witness for the prosecution told him it was fabricated. “Mueller ended up dropping it like a hot potato,” Wauck said.
Ukraine’s neutrality in the election was also called into further question that September, when Porochenko met with Clinton during a stop in New York. He never met with Trump, who appeared to get the cold shoulder from the Ukrainian leader. In statements following Trump’s surprise victory over Clinton in November, Ukraine’s embassy has denied interfering in the election and insisted that Chalupa was acting on her own.
After Trump won the election in spite of her efforts to sabotage him, Chalupa predicted: “Under President Trump, the Kremlin could likely invade U.S. allies in Europe without U.S. opposition.”
Not only did Russia not invade Europe “under Trump,” it didn’t even invade Ukraine. Rather, the invasion came under Biden, whose campaign Chalupa supported. Yet she continues to blame Trump. Recent tweets show a still-obsessed Chalupa has not dialed back her extremist views about Trump or Manafort, whom she believes should be prosecuted for “treason.”
In a Feb. 28 post on Twitter, for example, Chalupa claimed that Putin installed “a puppet regime in the U.S. with the help of Paul Manafort.” The previous day, she tweeted, “We had a Putin installed Trump presidency.” A day before that, she wrote: “Now would be a good time to release the Putin-Trump treason calls.”
And on Feb. 25, Chalupa tweeted another wild conspiracy theory: “It’s important to note that Putin’s imperial aspirations are of a global criminal empire, as we saw when he installed Donald J. Trump president and tried to turn the U.S. into a Russian satellite state.”