Ukrainians Were Right to Worry About a Trump Presidency

When Donald Trump referenced CrowdStrike during his call with Ukrainian President Zelensky, it was nothing more than conspiracy theory garbage, as many in his own administration had warned. But when the president’s congressional enablers talk about Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election, they tend to reference some half-truths that were spread primarily by the reporter who was working in concert with Rudy Giuliani, John Solomon.

One of the claims has to do with an op-ed written by the Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S., Valeriy Chaly. It is often characterized as an attack on Donald Trump. But for some context, here is what happened on July 27, 2016.

Chaly’s op-ed was published a week later.

Ukraine, which came to the world’s attention two years with its Revolution of Dignity and then worked to remain on the world’s radar after Russian aggression, has found itself in the spotlight once again.

Recent comments by Republican nominee Donald Trump about the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea — occupied by Russia since March 2014 — have raised serious concerns in Kyiv and beyond Ukraine. Many in Ukraine are unsure what to think, since Trump’s comments stand in sharp contrast to the Republican party platform…

Even if Trump’s comments are only speculative, and do not really reflect a future foreign policy, they call for appeasement of an aggressor and support the violation of a sovereign country’s territorial integrity and another’s breach of international law. In the eyes of the world, such comments seem alien to a country seen by partners as a strong defender of democracy and international order. The United States was among the 100 nations which supported the U.N. resolution “Territorial Integrity of Ukraine” not recognizing Russia’s attempt to annex Crimea.

As a candidate, Trump threatened the territorial integrity of Ukraine and it is unsurprising that a diplomat from that country spoke out in response to his comments.

Of course, all of that happened after Trump hired Paul Manafort, who had raked in millions of dollars working for Viktor Yanukovych, the former president of Ukraine who had been ousted in the Revolution of Dignity and absconded to Russia. While working on the campaign, Manafort is the one who is credited with altering the Republican platform to eliminate its call to provide military assistance to Ukraine in order to help them fight Russian aggression.

It is Manafort’s involvement in the Trump campaign that prompted Ukrainian-American Alexandra Chalupa to personally research Manafort’s connections to Yanukovych and Trump’s ties to Russia. Because of her response to a justified concern, Chalupa found herself on the list of witnesses Republicans want to call to testify at the impeachment hearings in support of their claims that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election.

The other Ukrainian who has come under this type of attack is Sergii Leshchenko, an investigative journalist and former member of parliament. In August 2016, he displayed pages of the so-called “black ledger” kept by Yanukovych detailing the $12.7 million the former Ukrainian president had paid to Manafort. That came after Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau posted the entire ledger on line. For that, he has been accused of interfering in the 2016 election to support Clinton. Two months ago, Leshchenko wrote a response in the Washington Post.

I will always be angry at Manafort. His work contributed greatly to Yanukovych’s election victory in 2010; Yanukovych then used his position as president to enrich himself and his inner circle. I have no doubt that Yanukovych paid Manafort for his services out of the funds he robbed from Ukrainian taxpayers.

Corruption is harmful whether it takes place in America or Ukraine. My desire to expose Manafort’s doings was motivated by the desire for justice. Neither Hillary Clinton, nor Joe Biden, nor John Podesta, nor George Soros asked me to publish the information from the black ledger. I wanted to obtain accountability for the lobbyist whose client immersed Ukraine in a blood bath during the Revolution of Dignity and the subsequent war in eastern Ukraine, when Yanukovych called on Russia to send troops.

When Trump’s congressional enablers claim that Ukraine attempted to interfere in the 2016 election, their so-called “evidence” consists of a diplomat who responded to a presidential candidate threatening Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty, combined with a Ukrainian-American and a Ukrainian journalist who attempted to expose the fact that the same presidential candidate had hired someone who worked for Yanukovych, the former president that was not only corrupt, but a strong ally of Vladimir Putin.

The facts are that Ukrainians had good reasons for their concern about a possible Trump presidency. The reality has, in many ways, been worse than their fears. As we are watching unfold in the current impeachment hearings, Trump has demonstrated that he doesn’t give a s—t about Ukraine and is willing to extort their leader for his own corrupt purposes.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.