Why Did Trump Tweet That Ukraine Tried to Sabotage American Elections?
25 July, 2017

U.S. President Donald Trump has accused Ukraine of interfering in the American election to help his opponent, Hillary Clinton. Where did he get that idea? Hromadske explains.

Earlier today, U.S. President Donald Trump published a tweet alleging that Ukrainian efforts to sabotage his presidential campaign had been “quietly working to boost [Hillary] Clinton.”

The tweet came as the latest invocation of a story told in several articles published over the past year in the American media. The publications all suggest that, like Russia, Ukraine also tried to interfere in the U.S. presidential election. Unlike in Moscow’s case, however, Kyiv’s alleged efforts hardly provoked a scandal.

One article, published in January in Politico, takes center stage in this narrative.

It suggested that Alexandra Chalupa, an American of Ukrainian descent, worked for the Democratic National Committee and was simultaneously cooperating with the Ukrainian authorities.

Chalupa was one of the people who drew attention to the connection between political consultant Paul Manafort — then the head of Trump’s election campaign — and Ukraine. Between 2004 and 2014, Manafort had worked as an advisor to Viktor Yanukovych, who served as President of Ukraine from 2010 until 2013, when he was  ousted during the 2013 Euromaidan revolution.

Politico reported that, while researching Manafort, Chalupa met with Valery Chaly, the Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States, to share her findings.

The article also focused attention on the fact that, last summer, Ukrainian parliamentarian and former investigative journalist Serhiy Leshchenko released the so-called almanac of Yanukovych’s Party of Regions. The political party’s “black book” suggested that, under Yanukovych, the Ukrainian government paid $17 million to Manafort.

Manafort subsequently confirmed that the money was received and sent the information to the U.S. Treasury Department in line with a U.S. law on the registration of foreign agents.

The American media picked up Leshchenko’s investigation at the height of the presidential campaign, and this became one of the reasons Manafort was forced to resign from the Trump campaign.

Politico’s article stressed that Leshchenko represented the “Petro Poroshenko Bloc” — the Ukrainian president’s political party — and his publication of the Manafort payments represented electoral interference by the Ukrainian authorities.

There are some issues with this claim — namely that, as an investigative reporter, Leshchenko had been investigating Manafort long before being elected to parliament. Additionally, the “black book” was part of Ukraine’s broader investigation into corruption in the Yanukovych administration — an investigation that began before the U.S. presidential campaign. And despite being in the president’s party, Leshchenko has been one of Poroshenko’s fiercest critics.

But, to a degree, the idea of “Ukrainian interference” has had legs. Russian state media — including TV host Dmitry Kiselyov, a man often referred to as Putin’s “chief propagandist” — seized upon the claim.

So did American politicians. In interviews with Hromadske, Republican politicians who supported Trump frequently pointed out the so-called “Ukrainian interference” in response to Russia’s hacking of the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign's servers. They often cited the Politico article.

Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican and the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, even sent an official letter to the deputy attorney general asking why Chalupa had not been required to register as a foreign agent for working for the Ukrainian government. In the letter, he repeatedly cited the Politico article.

In Spring 2017, Manafort himself spread these accusations against Ukraine after he was repeatedly questioned by the U.S. authorities. The political consultant even called for an investigation into the Clinton campaign’s alleged cooperation with Kyiv.

The Trump team has also used references to “Ukrainian interference” as a counter-argument during discussions of Russia’s interference in the election.

Trump’s tweet comes at a particularly tense moment for his White House: On July 24, Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner, testified before U.S. Senate investigators and denied that he or anyone in the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia.

On July 26, a day after Trump tweeted the claim of “Ukrainian interference,” the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington responded on Facebook.

“We stand by our words that the government of Ukraine didn't help any candidate in Election2016 [sic],” the embassy wrote. “Ukraine is proud of bipartisan support in the US.”

/By Nataliya Gumenyuk

/Translated by Chen Ou Yang and Gaby Kourkov