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GOP senators request interview with former DNC contractor to probe possible Ukraine ties

GOP Sens. Ron Johnson (Wis.), Chuck Grassley (Iowa) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) are seeking to interview a former Democratic National Committee (DNC) contractor as they step up their investigation into Ukraine and the 2016 election.
 

The three GOP senators—who oversee the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Finance, and Judiciary committees, respectively—said they want records from and a staff-level interview with Alexandra Chalupa, a former DNC contractor. 

 

“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 in a statement. 

 
Johnson added that they want to know if “wrongdoing occurred.” 

“The sooner we get answers to the many unanswered questions, the sooner we can turn our attention to the many challenges our nation faces,” he said.

 

They’re also requesting records from and an interview with Andrii Telizhenko, a former Ukraine diplomat.

 
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) blasted Republicans on Friday over the request, arguing they were promoting conspiracy theories supported by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
 
“When Vladimir Putin says stoop, Senate Republicans are asking: how low? Putin and his intelligence services disinformation campaign team in Moscow couldn’t have cooked up a more useful tool for spreading conjured and baseless conspiracy theories than the one Chairmen Graham, Grassley and Johnson announced today,” Schumer said in a statement.
 
The request by the three chairmen for an interview marks an escalation of the GOP probes into Ukraine and the 2016 election, which had previously largely been limited to sending letters requesting documents and information. It also signals that Johnson, Grassley and Graham are going to merge their investigative efforts, which had threatened to open up a turf war in the Senate.
 
Trump and some of his allies have homed in on uncorroborated allegations that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election as they’ve sought to hit back against the House impeachment inquiry focused on the president’s actions toward Ukraine. The intelligence community found that Russia meddled in the 2016 election.   
 
Republicans have pointed to a Politico article in 2017 that claimed that Chalupa, who left the DNC in 2016, continued to research ties between former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, including asking Ukrainian Embassy officials for help. 

Politico also reported that Chalupa turned over some of her findings to officials at the DNC and then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton‘s campaign. But Chalupa later refuted how her work was framed in the story. Both DNC and former Clinton campaign officials have also reportedly denied receiving information from Chalupa.  

Politico separately reported earlier this month that the GOP-led Senate Intelligence Committee found no evidence in 2017 that Ukraine orchestrated a systematic effort to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

 

The committee, according to Politico, ended their investigation after an interview with Chalupa bore no significant information.

Fiona Hill, a former White House Russia expert, also rejected the narrative during a public hearing late last month, telling lawmakers not to “promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests.”

“And as I told this committee last month, I refuse to be part of an effort to legitimize an alternate narrative that the Ukrainian government is a U.S. adversary, and that Ukraine — not Russia — attacked us in 2016,” she added.

 
Updated at 3:13 p.m.

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