The latest news headlines indicate that the Russia 2016 election-meddling investigation is ramping up. Connected with this probe is the now infamous meeting President Trump’s son, Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpSteve King defends Arpaio: ‘I don’t agree that profiling is wrong’ Eminem leads anti-Trump chant at music fest Enraged Dems vow to protect ‘Dreamers’ program MORE Jr., had with Russian officials last June. While we are still trying to ascertain who all was in that meeting and what, if any, information was shared that could have helped Trump’s presidential campaign, we cannot ignore another meeting with a foreign government — one where we have proof serious campaign violations were committed.
Back in January of this year, Politico reported that Democratic official met with Ukrainian officials to get information on the Trump campaign in an effort to boost Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSpecial counsel probing if Trump tried to hide purpose of Russian meeting: report Ten notable departures from Team Trump Is Trump responsible for violent rallies? Law says probably not MORE’s presidential bid. While it didn’t get nearly the mainstream media scrutiny that the Donald Trump Jr.’s Russia meeting is getting, it did prompt President Trump to correctly ask why it was being swept under the rug.
In a tweet last month, Trump said “Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump campaign — ‘quietly working to boost Clinton.’ So where is the investigation A.G.” It even prompted a Ukraine member of parliament, Andre Derkah, to send a letter last month to Ukraine’s prosecutor general requesting “that authorities launch a pretrial investigation into ‘illegal interference in the election of President of the United States organized by a criminal investigation.’” It also raised some very serious concerns for our organization, the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT).
This month, FACT filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) against the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and its Ukrainian-American consultant, Alexandra Chalupa, for knowingly soliciting and accepting illegal, in-kind contributions from the Ukrainian government.
Specifically, the complaint contends that, last year, Ukrainian-American operative and DNC consultant, Alexandra Chalupa met with Ukrainian government officials to get information in an effort to expose ties between Trump, his former campaign manager Paul Manafort and Russia. As reported, a political officer in the Ukrainian Embassy was instructed to help Chalupa conduct research on connections between Trump, Manafort and Russia. The DNC subsequently acknowledged that it had knowledge of the research.
First, according to federal law, an in-kind contribution consists of “anything of value, including information and leads, the fruits of paid research, or similar investigatory activity, to a political committee.” Second, federal law also prohibits accepting or receiving anything of value from foreign nationals and the Ukrainian government officials are foreign nationals.
Since Chalupa allegedly engaged in both activities as a DNC staffer, this collusion would constitute an illegal, in-kind contribution. And, even though the DNC claimed it “did not incorporate [Chalupa’s] findings in its dossiers on the subjects,” that would be irrelevant as the DNC solicited and received valuable opposition research.
Given what we know today about both situations, it’s clear they both merit serious investigation.
To date we have no proof that anything of value was received by the Trump campaign as a result of the Donald Jr. meeting. In fact, the Russian lawyer who meet with Trump’s son, Natalia Veselnitskaya, said: “I never had any damaging or sensitive information about Hillary Clinton. It was never my intention to have that.”
Foreign influence in our politics is nothing new but it is very concerning and should be investigated. The DNC/Ukraine connection is serious, and the public deserves answers.
Matthew Whitaker, a former U.S. attorney, is executive director of the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), a nonprofit ethics watchdog.
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