I’ve kept putting this off, not because I’m not interested in it, I am. I’ve been putting it off because the Jan. 2017, Politico story outlining Ukrainian election interference, is such a fucking mess. It’s really not good investigative journalism. The first time I read it, I just rubbed my face a couple times with both hands and said, “schwooo.” The story has also made me wonder about the times I have referred to Politico stories as reference points, and wondered if I was linking to similarly stitched together narratives. I don’t know.
Here it is if you want to wade through it. This story is perhaps the largest component of the GOP narrative that Ukraine sought to undermine the 2016 election. It certainly is the most fleshed-out component.
With the title: “Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump backfire,”of course it would be the most vital part of this latest GOP conspiracy theory.
Let me start by saying, yes, the Ukrainians clearly didn’t want candidate Trump to be elected. I wouldn’t be surprised if every single Ukrainian didn’t want him to be elected. You’d probably feel the same way if the position of president of the United States, which largely controlled the future of your nation, would potentially be occupied by a dude that repeatedly signaled over many months that he didn’t care that your country was invaded and under attack, that those that did the invading probably shouldn’t be penalized for it, and he didn’t much support the joint European organization of NATO which you wished to join to save your very existence.
It’s also worth pointing out that dislike, disapproval, and outright hate of the candidate Trump, wasn’t exclusive to Ukrainian officials and wasn’t publicly voiced by only Ukraine.
Here is the premise, from paragraph 1:
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.
The biggest issue with this opening statement, is that it is presented as an implied unified narrative, as if there were an organized conspiracy and these are it’s main components. This is not true in the least and I am certain Politico was aware of it when they edited and published this story, because there is no attempt to connect these disparate events within the story. None. It’s not in the story. There wasn’t a conspiracy, there wasn’t a coordinated movement as represented by these three points.
On each point- there is no evidence presented in this story that supports- “Ukrainian government officials tried to help Hillary Clinton…,” and the “They also disseminated documents implicating a top trump aide…,” is not accurate. This should state: “One Ukrainian government official disseminated a particularly important document.” That Trump aide was Paul Mannafort, and everything alleged about his shady dealing did in fact prove to be correct, worthy of investigating, and entirely criminal. Even though the Ukrainian side of what would have been their own investigations and cooperation with Mueller, were ultimately shut down in appeasement to President Donald Trump’s desires, whether those desires were actually stated directly to Ukrainian officials or not.
“And they helped Clinton’s allies research…” is a very clouded statement to make within the confines of Politico’s own reporting. That their US embassy somewhat worked as a clearing house for multiple sources, including Chalupa(more on her later), who is, in a fashion, connected to the Clinton campaign as well as other benefactors, is probably true and that’s probably true for most every embassy. Although the nature of that endeavor is never decisively reported in this story:
“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.”
“Chalupa said the embassy also worked directly with reporters researching Trump, Manafort and Russia to point them in the right directions. She added, though, “they were being very protective and not speaking to the press as much as they should have. 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.”
“Shulyar vehemently denied working with reporters or with Chalupa on anything related to Trump or Manafort, explaining “we were stormed by many reporters to comment on this subject, but our clear and adamant position was not to give any comment [and] not to interfere into the campaign affairs.”
This is the kind of mess this story is. I guess politico saw this as honesty or “balanced.” what it shows is the story’s thesis statement is not supported by the information in the body. Worse, it is obscured.
That the Ukrainian Embassy disseminated information, I have no doubt. That’s what embassies do. To imply this was part of some larger scheme, is not supported in any way, neither within a consistent description of the embassy’s actions nor as part of any later successfully described latticework of organized activity. The Embassy’s activities simply aren’t mentioned in conjunction with anything else.
” The Ukrainian efforts had an impact in the race, helping to force Manafort’s resignation…” is a dreadful statement to make in the third paragraph. It was the efforts of the America news media and their investigations that brought the story to light, not Ukraine, and it wouldn’t even be fair to state it was Chalupa. In Isikoff’s piece, one of several which forced Mannafort to resign the Trump campaign, Chalupa is referenced as “one of 16 people” he gathered information from regarding Manafort.
“There’s little evidence of such a top-down effort by Ukraine.” The start of chapter 5 is incorrect. There’s no evidence, not “little”.
Now, Alexandra Chalupa. The Ukrainian American who clearly saw herself as both Ukrainian and American, was often employed by various Democratic organizations, as well as a free-lance investigative journalist who worked on assignment or contract.
In that opening statement Chalupa would be “Clinton ally(ies)”. I’m going to try to find every position Chalupa holds or has attributed to her, at various points in this story as well as from which position she passed information on to any other person/organization:
“veteran Democratic operative”
“consultant, for Democratic National Committee”
“The DNC paid her $412,000 from 2004 to June 2016”
“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.”
” in 2014 was doing pro bono work for another client interested in the Ukrainian crisis and began researching Manafort”
“While her consulting work at the DNC this past election cycle centered on mobilizing ethnic communities “
“She occasionally shared her findings with officials from the DNC and Clinton’s campaign”
“A former DNC staffer described the exchange as an “informal conversation,” saying “‘briefing’ makes it sound way too formal,”
adding, “We were not directing or driving her work on this.”
“Chalupa told a senior DNC official”
“Chalupa, who at the time also was warning leaders in the Ukrainian-American community“
“she shared her concern with Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.S., Valeriy Chaly”
“She quickly found herself in high demand.”
“she briefed the DNC’s communications staff”
“invitation to the Library of Congress forum to veteran Washington investigative reporter Michael Isikoff.”
“she intended to share “offline” with Miranda and DNC research director Lauren Dillon”
“A DNC official stressed that Chalupa was a consultant paid to do outreach for the party’s political department, not a researcher.”
“She undertook her investigations into Trump, Manafort and Russia on her own“
“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.”
“Chalupa left the DNC after the Democratic convention in late July to focus fulltime on her research into Manafort, Trump and Russia.“
“She said she provided off-the-record information and guidance to “a lot of journalists”
Look, I’m not trying to muddy up this story, this story is mud. It’s never clear who she was working for when or for what reason and this should have been cleaned up by the reporters. I don’t know who she was working for at key points in the story. No idea.
So how was she the Clinton Ally in this vast conspiracy? I know she worked for Clinton at various times…or her campaign. She worked for the DNC as an employee and as a contract employee at various times for various reasons. She freelanced a lot, and for good reason, she was getting hot as hell. She also worked as a contract employee for at least 2 different unmentioned parties during the relevant timeframe(s) reported in this story.
She’s definitely a Democrat, definitely a Ukrainian and definitely a US citizen. She was a highly motivated actor on the scene who was digging up some real good info regardless of wherever the money was coming from, and disseminating that to many different parties because she was concerned, because it was probably worth good money, and because it would widen her network…and I’ll leave it at that, because this summation is the only for sure thing, until her actual bio timeline with all overlapping employs and contacts is charted out by a goddamn excel wizard.
Ultimately, she played a part as a source of information for what would become Isakoff’s and others reporting regarding Paul Manafort. She was one of many, but doubtlessly had some of the best info. She wasn’t directed by anyone in particular. She wasn’t part of some nefarious conspiracy seeking to undermine the election.
An interesting sidelight, I feel really needs to be pointed out, but totally unrelated to my topic, is the concerted effort to scare Chalupa during the time she was investigating Manafort and his Russia links. She had her emails repeatedly hacked by “state-sponsored actors,” and had her car ransacked and an attempted house break-in (but nothing was ever stolen, just moved around) as a scare tactic in the US. Inside of the United States.
“They also disseminated documents implicating a top Trump aide in corruption…”
The easiest explanation of the Ukrainian ledger of “black accounts,” is this- The ledger was uncovered by random people during a the chaotic Ukrainian revolution of 2014, It somehow made it’s way to the Ukrainian anti-corruption unit. It was a large document mentioning prominent Ukrainian politicians and private citizens and it appeared to indicated many payments between these people from a large, unaccounted for governmental slush fund. The anti-corruption unit opened up a ‘pre-investigation’ into the allegations this ledger of black accounts seemed to indicate. One of the many people mentioned in the ledger was Paul Manafort.
In Ukraine, the ledger wasn’t about just Paul Manafort, it was about corruption they wanted to investigate. Paul Manafort was a small part of that. The anti-corruption unit could only investigate, not bring charges. They would refer matters to the Ukrainian courts. It is true that one member of the unit, Sergey Leshchenko released for US consumption a list of the Paul Manafort entries in the ledger, with the statement:
“The whole basis of this so-called ‘book’ of money is corruption. This cash was without any taxation and this cash was taken from Ukrainian state entities,” Leshchenko told ABC News. “I believe Mr. Manafort also needs to be under investigation at least in the United States as a guy who didn’t pay taxes.”
Which is, eventually, exactly what happened and his suppositions proved to be 100% accurate.
The GOP implication of impropriety in this case, notwithstanding that the act itself is something we would presume the “law and order party” would prefer to have occurred, turns on it’s head what the GOP pretends to have happened in the case of Trump’s “long standing position” on investigating corruption. Do you want it or don’t you? Is the impropriety that, in this case, since it was a member of the Trump campaign, it counts as election interference and not corruption?
“For me, it was important to show not only the corruption aspect, but that he is [a] pro-Russian candidate who can break the geopolitical balance in the world,” Leshchenko told the Financial Times about two weeks after his news conference.
If an investigation of the pretend Biden/Burisma conspiracy could have an effect on the election, how is it any different or more acceptable?
Now the Politico story fails to mention all of this, because there was no reason, no context, and it’s historically impossible. However, Politico casts this as a part of a larger conspiracy against the Trump campaign. It simply isn’t. Where the Politico story fails, is in implying the ledger was only about Manafort to the Ukrainians, it wasn’t by a long shot, he was one of many bullet-points in a larger corruption probe. Where the Politico story fails of its own accord, is casting this as an undertaking of the Ukrainian government in the opening paragraph (when it was only Leshchenko), then later, offering an “opposing viewpoint” well into the body.
“…the spokesman said, adding, “it was about him personally who pushed [the anti-corruption bureau] to proceed with investigation on Manafort.”
Politico fails to mention in Leshchenko’s first public announcement and declared interest in the ledger in May 2016, he did not mention Manafort, because the 22 page excerpt he had of the ledger, did not contain Manafort. Leshchenko did not know about Manafort until 3 months later.
It is suggested that probably others knew about Leshchenko’s very public announcement and approved. That may well be. I would again offer there was valid reason for every single person in the country to not want Trump elected, and also that any of their viewpoints and public statements to that effect were in no way unique, out of the ordinary, or without precedence and to cast them as such, is shitty reporting of the first order.
As far as questions, at the time of reporting, as to whether the ledger was real or a forgery, the transfers mentioned in the ledger, appear to be accurate. So I am, as usual, indifferent to GOP conspiracy theories.
I have just found this recent statement from Leshchenko, and it summarizes my take of the entire affair- my take based on facts and logical interpretation of what I knew.
“One of the misconceptions of American politicians is that Manafort is the main thing in this black ledger. But the black ledger is not about American politics. It is about transnational corruption and how political influence in Ukraine was being purchased. Therefore, when trying to cast a shadow on the story of Manafort’s activities in Ukraine, some American politicians unwittingly undermine the entire array of documents that are a testimony to how Ukrainians were robbed. By doing so, American politicians indirectly justify the multi-billion dollar crimes of the exiled Kremlin-backed Yanukovych. And this is one of the worst treatments of Ukraine one could expect.
This is the chronology of events as it was.
My only mistake in this story I consider my caustic comments about Manafort in 2016, which were caused by my emotional hostility towards Manafort as the chief engineer of the Yanukovych regime in Ukraine.
The same mistake was made by many Ukrainian politicians, such as former Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and current Interior Minister Arsen Avakov. However, all these comments were made publicly on social media, and there was no web of intrigue and collusion, as some American politicians are trying to paint it.”
Politico could not know this. Neither could they know what was to happen later.
To Politico’s mish-mash of individual statements by Ukrainian officials in this piece, in regards to the Trump candidacy , I submit, their statements were not unusual for the time and Politco should have made an effort to report that, instead of merely combining the statements as some proof of an accumulating conspiracy.
Politico’s competing statements of what transpired in the Ukrainian Embassy, are again offered as what I presume must be “balanced reporting” in this case. They do not serve to illuminate anything, except that no unity of purpose existed. Facts are supplied to suggest the Ukrainian embassy both disapproved of Donald Trump and reached out to the campaign.
What transpired after the election as represented by characterizations like this: “Poroshenko’s allies are scrambling to figure out how to build a relationship with Trump, who is known for harboring and prosecuting grudges for years,” are not entirely accurate. Yes, Trump would go on to hold a grudge against what ill statements were made, but this completely misses the point, Trump had already been dismissive of Ukraine long before any public statement were made by Ukrainians. He already had shown tremendous preference to the nation that would destroy Ukraine- Russia, long before anyone said jackshit about Trump out of Ukraine. Therefore Poroshenko’s government had a keen interest in developing any positive relationship with Trump. This also should have been reported in the Politico piece instead of casting it as merely reactionary to some Ukrainian’s public dislike of Trump.
What Politico’s piece did help to create was:
..and THE RETRIBUTION
Strange how the court’s findings that it was illegal to release private information also somehow came to the curious non-legal conclusion, that the court just has to publicize, that it constituted “US election interference”.
“In reviewing an administrative case filed by lawmaker Boryslav Rozenblat, the court concluded that Artem Sytnyk, director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine, and parliamentarian Serhiy Leshchenko acted illegally when they revealed that Manafort’s surname and signature were found in the so-called “black ledger” of ousted President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions.”
Also, odd isn’t it, that any investigation into Manafort would be shut down so that good relations with the US could continue, so they could, you know, still get those javelin missiles that were promised…the first time.