GOP senators seek interviews on links between DNC, Ukrainians

The Republican chairmen of three Senate committees are seeking records from and interviews with a former Democratic National Committee (DNC) consultant, Alexandra Chalupa, who sought damaging information about Trump campaign operatives, and with a former Ukrainian official who communicated with her.

Republicans have promoted the theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election, citing Chalupa’s discussions with Ukrainian embassy officials as proof of collusion to harm President Trump’s campaign. The DNC has denied any communications with Ukrainian officials.

The U.S. intelligence community has assessed that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, and special counsel Robert Mueller found that Russian officials did so with the aim of aiding Mr. Trump’s campaign. However, the special counsel’s report did not find evidence that Trump campaign operatives coordinated with Russian individuals.

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The renewed focus on Ukraine as a potential perpetrator of election interference by Republicans comes after Mr. Trump asked the Ukrainian president in a July 25 call to investigate the debunked theory that Ukraine was in possession of DNC servers from the 2016 campaign. This call is the nexus for the impeachment inquiry which intensified this week when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on Democratic committee chairmen to begin drafting articles of impeachment.

Republicans have defended Mr. Trump’s request, saying that he was naturally interested in investigating potential wrongdoing by a country with a history of corruption.

“While there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, we know that Russia meddled in our democratic processes. However, certain reports of collusion and interference involving Ukrainian officials have not been sufficiently examined, and the few answers that have been given are inadequate,” said Senate Financial Services Chairman Chuck Grassley in a statement announcing the request for interviews with Chalupa and Andrii Telizhenko, a former Ukrainian embassy official.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham added that it was necessary to investigate any claims of election interference.

“To believe that the mainstream media will investigate all things Russia or Ukraine is to hope against hope. The hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s emails was done by the Russians and no one else. Whether there’s a connection between Democratic operatives and Ukrainian officials during the 2016 election has yet to be determined. It will only be found by looking. We intend to look,” Graham said.

The statement by Graham, Grassley and Senate Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson cited a 2017 CBS News analysis which said that “it’s deeply unusual for an American campaign to be working with foreign assets like this, regardless of whether it’s Ukraine or Russia.” However, that analysis, which referenced a Politico report by Ken Vogel, also noted that Ukraine “certainly couldn’t match what U.S. intelligence agencies believe Russia was doing” to interfere in the 2016 election. 

Several former national security and State Department officials who testified before the House Intelligence Committee in impeachment hearings have pushed back against the idea that Ukraine conducted a campaign to interfere in the 2016 election.

Former National Security Council official Fiona Hill testified in November that this idea, calling it “a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.”

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