Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) broke down the differences between accusations that Hillary Clinton received campaign assistance from Ukraine and allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.
The Minnesota Democrat compared the two cases Wednesday afternoon, during the confirmation hearing for Christopher Wray, after Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) asked President Donald Trump’s nominee as FBI director about Ukrainian actions during the U.S. presidential campaign.
Graham pointed to a Jan. 11 article posted on Politico, which reported Ukrainian government officials helped reporters and Clinton allies look into Trump and his team’s ties to Russia, and Wray suggested he would be willing to investigate the claims as FBI director.
Franken followed up on Graham’s concerns, saying Ukrainian efforts paled in comparison to what lawmakers are investigating about Russia.
“I don’t know about the article, the January Politico article, that suggested that someone in the Ukraine wanted to pass some information off to the Clinton campaign,” Franken said. “But I think I know the answer to this. I think you know the answer to the question.”
“Did the Ukraine — Ukraine, rather — hack the RNC’s database?” Franken said. “Did they hack Kellyanne Conway? Did the Clintons want to build a hotel in Kiev?”
Russia is accused of hacking into the DNC and stealing emails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta at the direction of President Vladimir Putin, and Trump has tried to build hotels and houses in Moscow.
His top campaign officials, including his son and son-in-law, have offered conflicting or misleading statements about their meetings during the election with Russian government officials.
According to Politico, a Ukrainian-American political consultant shared her concerns about Trump and his team’s ties to Russia with the DNC and Clinton campaign — particularly after Paul Manafort joined the Republican’s campaign as chairman.
“I felt there was a Russia connection,” said Andrea Chalupa, the Democratic consultant. “And that, if there was, that we can expect Paul Manafort to be involved in this election,”
Chalupa said she worked with aides at the Ukrainian embassy to publicize Manafort’s actions during a 2013 political crisis in the former Soviet bloc nation.
“(Manafort is) Putin’s political brain for manipulating U.S. foreign policy and elections,” Chalupa told Politico.
She also spoke to a legislative assistant for Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) about a possible congressional investigation of Manafort, but said the talks didn’t go anywhere, and the campaign chairman eventually resigned after a Ukrainian government agency claimed he’d received $12.7 million in cash payments from a pro-Putin party.
Recent news reports have also revealed Manafort attended a meeting with a Russian attorney promising dirt on Clinton, along with Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner.
DNC officials say Chalupa was paid to do outreach work to Ukrainian-American voters and undertook her research on Trump and Manafort on her own time.
She left the DNC consulting job after the convention in July to focus on her research full time, and she told Politico she was soon targeted by hackers and other harassment, including two car break-ins and an attempted home invasion.