With the likelihood of a Senate impeachment trial looming, President Trump’s allies in the Senate are expanding their efforts to investigate the Ukraine-related conspiracy theories that are at the heart of Trump’s pressure campaign on the country.
Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) announced Friday their requests to interview two individuals who the Republicans believe could shed light on the supposed Ukraine-Democratic plot against Trump in 2016.
Specifically, they want to interview Alexandra Chalupa, a then-consultant for the DNC who did research on ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort in 2016, as well as Andrii Telizhenko, a former official in Ukraine’s embassy in Washington.
They also want relevant records from the officials, according to their press release, which did not include a copy of the request letters themselves.
The requests come in addition to the documents the senators have already been seeking related to the Bidens and Ukraine. Friday’s press release described their earlier requests to the State Department and Justice Department for records related to Hunter Biden and Burisma, the company whose board he sat on, as “outstanding.”
The GOP senators’ Biden requests were based on claims made by John Solomon, an opinion columnist for the Hill who published several stories smearing the Bidens and other targets of Trump’s Ukraine gambit. The Hill, which no longer employs Solomon, is now reviewing those columns. The House impeachment investigation revealed that Solomon was in frequent contact with Rudy Giuliani as those articles were published, and also spoke with Giuliani’s indicted associates and a conservative lawyer with ties to Trump.
The latest requests, according to the press release, appear to be based on a 2017 Politico report on Chalupa’s Ukraine research efforts, which the DNC said were separate from the outreach she was doing for the DNC. Politico quoted a claim from Telizhenko that he’d received instructions from an Ukrainian official to work with Chalupa as part of an investigation into Manafort they were “coordinating” with the “Hillary team.”
The Politico article was brought up several times in last month’s impeachment inquiry hearings. A former Trump administration national security official testified that the anecdotal examples of individual Ukrainians publicly opposing Trump campaign proposals or investigating Manafort was not comparable to Russia’s government-coordinated 2016 election interference effort.
Furthermore, the Senate Intelligence Committee also reportedly vetted the allegations laid out in the 2017 Politico report and failed to find evidence of a top-down government-sponsored meddling effort. That investigation included interviewing Chalupa, Politico reported this week, as well as the President of CrowdStrike, according to Vice.
CrowdStrike is the cybersecurity company that Trump himself brought up on his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The CrowdStrike allegations — which essentially accuse Ukraine and Democrats of framing Russia for the 2016 hack — are even fringier than what Senate Republicans are now probing.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), the ranking member of the Finance Committee who also sits on Senate Intel, blasted the move in a statement that said the “rogue” GOP chairman were “laundering Russian propaganda to deflect from Donald Trump’s attempt to extort Ukraine into manufacturing dirt on a political rival and exonerate Russia for its criminal interference in the 2016 election.”