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Political Editors / November 4, 2019

Ukraine’s 2016 Anti-Trump Interference

Donald Trump cares about Ukraine because it tried to keep him from winning.

Now that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has held her party-line vote on proceeding with the Democrats’ impeachment “inquiry” over a “whistleblower” complaint charging that President Donald Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to dig up dirt on Joe Biden, it may behoove our readers to note why Trump is so interested in Ukraine. Here’s one piece of that puzzle.

Recall back in 2016 Trump’s campaign was hit with a New York Times story alleging that Paul Manafort, his campaign manager at the time, had nefarious ties to the Kremlin via his former client Viktor Yanukovych, the ousted pro-Russian Ukrainian president. Manafort resigned days later after a Times follow-up story revealed more details of a “black ledger” in which handwritten off-the-book payments made to Manafort by Yanukovych’s political party.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign quickly took advantage of the embarrassing story and used it as fodder to push the narrative that Trump was in cahoots with the Russians. It can certainly be argued that Trump should have done a better job in screening Manafort, as he clearly became a dangerous liability.

The question is, however, is this: How did the Times come upon its bombshell report? The simple answer is Ukraine. Two weeks after Manafort’s resignation, the Financial Times reported that a Ukrainian member of parliament, Sehei Leshchenko, along with the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine, was worried at “the prospect of Mr. Trump, who praised Ukraine’s arch-enemy Vladimir Putin, becoming leader of the country’s biggest ally.” That worry “spurred not just Mr. Leshchenko but Kiev’s wider political leadership to do something they would never have attempted before: intervene, however indirectly, in a U.S. election.”

But the bigger question that remains unanswered — the one on which Trump may have had Rudy Giuliani digging for answers — was, who was responsible for alerting the Ukrainians to the mysterious “black ledger?”

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