Senate Intel found no evidence of 2016 Ukrainian interference: report

The Senate Intelligence Committee found no evidence in 2017 that Ukraine orchestrated a systematic effort to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, Politico reported Monday, citing people with direct knowledge of the investigation.

In the wake of Russia’s election meddling, the GOP-led Intelligence Committee reportedly looked into the theory, recently resurfaced by allies of President Trump, that Kyiv also sought to influence the 2016 vote. But the panel halted the probe in the fall of 2017 after an interview with Alexandra Chalupa, a Democratic consultant linked to the Ukraine meddling allegations, bore no significant information, Politico reported. 

Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.), reportedly made no other interview requests related to the issue. 

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The interview with Chalupa had mainly focused on a Politico report from January 2017. In that article, Chalupa has said that the Ukrainian Embassy was “helpful” with her pursuit to expose information about former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. She told the news outlet that she traded information with officials there and that “if I asked a question, they would provide guidance.”

But she noted that the officials had been “very careful” to not get involved politically in U.S. affairs. The initial Politico article also highlighted that there was little evidence Ukraine had orchestrated a systematic effort to interfere in the election similar to the one perpetrated by the Kremlin. 

Chalupa reportedly denied serving as an intermediary between the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Ukrainian Embassy during her testimony. She also alleged that a Russian active-measure campaign had targeted her. 

The DNC has said that Chalupa communicated with the Ukrainian Embassy on her own accord. 

Chalupa confirmed to Politico that she testified before the panel. Burr declined to comment to Politico and did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill. 

Burr also refused to comment directly Monday when asked by reporters if his panel had uncovered any evidence of Ukrainian election interference.

The report from Politico comes as unfounded claims that Ukraine attempted to tilt the 2016 vote gain traction among some of Trump’s supporters. 

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In a July 25 phone call at the center of the House impeachment inquiry, Trump urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to look into matters related to CrowdStrike, an internet security company that initially examined the breach of the DNC servers in 2016. The request was an apparent reference to a conspiracy theory that casts doubt on the assessment that Russia was to blame for the hack of the DNC servers. 

Republicans have largely stayed away from commenting on Trump’s remark about CrowdStrike.

But others have repeatedly cited Chalupa while defending the president’s request for an investigation. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) argued this week that both Russia and Ukraine meddled in 2016. 

“The fact that Russia was so aggressive does not exclude the fact that [former Ukrainian] President [Petro] Poroshenko actively worked for [former] Secretary [of State Hillary] Clinton,” Kennedy said on NBC’s “Meet The Press” on Sunday. He did not cite any evidence for such a claim. 

Kennedy was sharply criticized over the remarks, but he doubled down on Monday, citing reports such as the one from Politico in 2017.

“But I was asked a question: Did Ukraine meddle? And clearly at least according to these journalists they did,” Kennedy said.

Multiple former administration officials have dismissed allegations of Ukrainian interference. Tom Bossert, a former homeland security adviser in the Trump administration, said in late September that the allegation that Ukraine hacked the DNC was a “completely debunked” conspiracy theory.

Fiona Hill, a former top Russia analyst for the White House, testified before the House last month that the claim was a “fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.” 

Intelligence officials have also briefed senators that Russia engaged in an effort to frame Kyiv for its election interference, according to The New York Times.

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Written by Alan Smith

Alan Smith

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