Many journalists reacted breathlessly to a New York Times report on Sunday revealing that President Trump’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., met with a Russian lawyer who indicated she had damaging information about Hillary Clinton.
Donald Jr. admitted to the June 2016 meeting — to which he brought campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Trump adviser Jared Kushner — but downplayed its significance. “Obviously I’m the first person on a campaign to ever take a meeting to hear info about an opponent,” he wrote on Twitter Monday morning, adding that the meeting “went nowhere” but that he “had to listen.”
Many Trump critics claimed that the NYT report supported the theory that members of the Trump campaign were somehow involved in the Russian government’s hacking of Clinton campaign chair John Podesta and the Democratic National Committee.
But Trump Jr., Kushner and Manafort’s lone meeting with the Russian lawyer pales when compared to the coordination between Clinton allies and Ukrainian government officials who hoped to see Clinton win the 2016 election.
Politico revealed in January some of the Ukrainian government’s anti-Trump activities during the election.
A veteran DNC operative who previously worked in the Clinton White House, Alexandra Chalupa, worked with Ukrainian government officials and journalists from both Ukraine and America to dig up Russia-related opposition research on Trump and Manafort. She also shared her anti-Trump research with both the DNC and the Clinton campaign, according to the Politico report.
Chalupa met with Ukrainian ambassador Valeriy Chaly and one of his aides, Oksara Shulyar, at the Ukrainian Embassy in March 2016 to talk about unearthing Paul Manafort’s Russian connections, Chalupa admitted to Politico. Four days later, Trump officially hired Manafort.
“The day after Manafort’s hiring was revealed, she briefed the DNC’s communications staff on Manafort, Trump and their ties to Russia, according to an operative familiar with the situation,” Politico reported.
The Politico report also notes that the DNC encouraged Chalupa to try to arrange an interview with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to talk about Manafort’s ties to the former pro-Russia president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, whom Manafort previously advised.
The embassy declined to arrange the meeting but was nevertheless “helpful,” Chalupa told Politico. “If I asked a question, they would provide guidance, or if there was someone I needed to follow up with,” she said, but added that “There were no documents given, nothing like that.”
Chalupa also told Politico that the Ukrainian embassy worked directly with reporters in uncovering dirt on Manafort and Trump.
Like other DNC staffers, some of Chalupa’s emails were obtained by hackers and published by WikiLeaks. U.S. intelligence services have identified Russia as the culprit behind the hacking of the DNC. In one email released by WikiLeaks, Chalupa told Luis Miranda, then the DNC’s communications director, that she was working with Yahoo News reporter Michael Isikoff and “connected him to the Ukrainians.”
“A lot more coming down the pipe. I spoke to a delegation of 68 investigative journalists from Ukraine last Wednesday at the Library of Congress – the Open World Society’s forum – they put me on the program to speak specifically about Paul Manafort and I invited [Yahoo News reporter] Michael Isikoff whom I’ve been working with for the past few weeks and connected him to the Ukrainians,” Chalupa told Miranda. “More offline tomorrow since there is a big Trump component you and Lauren need to be aware of that will hit in next few weeks and something I’m working on you should be aware of.”
The Open World Leadership Center, which funded Chalupa’s briefing of journalists about Manafort, is a taxpayer-funded congressional agency. A spokeswoman for the center, Maura Shelden, emphasized to Politico that the center is non-partisan and that “our delegations hear from both sides of the aisle, receiving bipartisan information.”
After Trump’s shocking electoral victory, the Ukrainian government told Politico, “We have never worked to research and disseminate damaging information about Donald Trump and Paul Manafort.” But Andrii Telizhenko, a former Ukrainian embassy officer, told Politico that he was assigned to work with Chalupa.
“Oksana said that if I had any information, or knew other people who did, then I should contact Chalupa,” said Telizhenko “They were coordinating an investigation with the Hillary team on Paul Manafort with Alexandra Chalupa.”
“Oksana was keeping it all quiet,” Telizhenko said, but added that “the embassy worked very closely with” Chalupa, the DNC operative.
Like the Ukrainian embassy, the DNC distanced itself from Chalupa’s actions when asked by Politico, insisting that she was acting on her own.