Politico: Ukrainian gov't resources boosted Hillary campaign

Looks like the Russians didn’t play on our field alone in the last election. According to Politico’s Kenneth Vogel and David Stern, the DNC had contact with the Ukrainian government while the Ukrainians tried to boost Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. That included leaks of damaging information, especially about former campaign manager Paul Manafort, who got dropped by Team Trump when his ties to Ukraine were exposed:

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. But they were far less concerted or centrally directed than Russia’s alleged hacking and dissemination of Democratic emails.

Vogel and Stern later suggest in their reporting that the Ukrainian interventions were less effective than those by the Russians, but is that the case? The Ukrainians managed to peel Manafort off of the campaign, while the Russian hacks didn’t dissuade Hillary from keeping John Podesta as her campaign chief. Trump won the election, but that might be more related to Hillary Clinton’s ineptitude in assuming that Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin weren’t up for grabs. Just as the Russians weren’t responsible for Hillary’s incompetence, the Ukrainians weren’t responsible for Trump’s peccadilloes. Perhaps they ended up canceling each other out instead?

The bigger issue is the coordination alleged in this article between a DNC consultant and the Ukrainian government. That’s precisely the kind of coordination that Democrats allege that Trump conducted with Russia in order to get foreign assistance in the election, but for which they have provided no evidence. Vogel and Stern get their information from the source herself:

Manafort’s work for Yanukovych caught the attention of a veteran Democratic operative named Alexandra Chalupa, who had worked in the White House Office of Public Liaison during the Clinton administration. 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. …

Yet, the former DNC staffer and the operative familiar with the situation agreed that with the DNC’s encouragement, Chalupa asked embassy staff to try to arrange an interview in which Poroshenko might discuss Manafort’s ties to Yanukovych.

While the embassy declined that request, officials there became “helpful” in Chalupa’s efforts, she said, explaining that she traded information and leads with them. “If I asked a question, they would provide guidance, or if there was someone I needed to follow up with.” But she stressed, “There were no documents given, nothing like that.”

It’s an interesting story for other reasons as well. The Ukrainians have painted themselves into a very tight spot, thanks to their outright hostility to Trump during the campaign. They are trying to backpedal now, but the Poroshenko government has a lot of fences to mend, and probably not much time in which to do it. They have relied on Western support led in part by the US, but their attempted intervention in the election has cast a long shadow on that relationship at the worst possible time for Ukraine. Be sure to read it all.

For now, though, the question will be whether Congress and the media will be as quick to question the motives and actions of Hillary Clinton and her team as they were with Trump over similar allegations. It will be veeeeerrrrrrrrryyyyyyyy interesting to see how that unfolds.