Yes, Ukraine Meddled in the 2016 US Election

Not only did it happen, it was written up as fact by establishment papers and outlets as varied as Yahoo, Politico and The Financial Times, reports Yasha Levine.

By Yasha Levine
The Grayzone

I know I’ve written about this before, but I feel like I have to address it again — seeing how just about every impeachment witness has repeated the claim that meddling by Ukrainian government officials did not happen in 2016 and that anyone who says otherwise is spreading toxic Russian propaganda. I’ve been dipping into these hearings every now and again and I’ve seen this said over and over. It reminds me of those new age quantum-mind-over-matter types in the The Secret:” Repeat the mantra often enough and convince yourself it’s true and…it is!

Let’s start with a fact: Meddling in the 2016 election by Ukrainian politicians and government agencies happened.

The above is true and no amount of denial is going to change that. What’s more: Ukrainian nationals didn’t just meddle on their own, they also worked with Americans — including Ukrainian-American political operatives on the payroll of the Democratic Party. Not only did all this happen, it was written up as fact by establishment papers and outlets as varied as YahooPolitico, and The Financial Times in 2016 on the eve of the election. (See this by me here.)

The involvement of Ukrainian pols and officials in all of this has never been secret. It was acknowledged at the time. The principal actors openly talked and bragged about their exploits in the press. And why not? Back in 2016, no one thought that Trump would win the presidency. So why bother hiding it?

One of the best examples of this is the plot to take down Paul Manafort — the sleazy Republican political consultant who had long worked in Ukraine and who headed Donald’s Trump campaign.

In 2016, Serhiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian member of parliament and an anti-corruption activist (who got embroiled in his own corruption scandal), coordinated the release of a handwritten ledger. The document purported to show off-the-book payments made to Manafort from the Party of the Regions — the political arm of the Viktor Yanukovich, the Ukrainian president who had been overthrown in a coup-type revolt by a much more Western-friendly political faction. The ledger itself was released by NABU, a Ukrainian government anti-corruption organization set up as result of prodding by the Obama administration and which was run with the backing and financial support of the FBI.

(As an aside: NABU — which also got embroiled into its own political corruption scandal — also happens to be at the heart of an internal Ukrainian political fight that sucked in ex-Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. But that’s a different and complicated story. And then there’s the weird angle of the FBI being so closely involved with NABU at a time when this Ukrainian anti-corruption agency decided to involve itself in an American election.)

Anyway, Leshchenko — a foreign politician — made clear that his objective at the time was to kill off Trump’s candidacy. That’s a direct admission of meddling. As Oleksiy Kuzmenko has documented so well, Leshchenko repeated this statement in various ways in both English and Ukraine over and over again.

Lev Golinkin explained in The Nation a few months ago that the release of that ledger by Leshchenko and NABU was an important event  —  and a direct intervention in the election. “The story rocked the 2016 election, given Manafort’s position as head of Trump’s campaign. The Hillary Clinton campaign immediately seized on it as proof that Manafort — and therefore Trump —was tied to Yanukovych and the Kremlin,” he wrote. “Manafort was ousted based on handwritten pieces of paper — the story would’ve never gone anywhere without NABU and Leshchenko’s vouching for the ledger’s authenticity. That’s as direct as it gets.”

But three years later, this episode has been wiped from the collective memory of our media and political establishment. What used to be fact is now smeared as either a pro-Trump rightwing conspiracy theory or Russian propaganda — and probably both. But saying that it didn’t happen doesn’t change the historical record.

Mark Ames makes a very good point: All this outside meddling didn’t swing the election, but it did help us learn something useful about our own political process. The hacking of email accounts belonging to the John Podesta and the Democratic National Committee revealed to Americans the corruption of the Democratic Party, including the way that the primaries are run. And leaks about Manafort revealed the corruption inside Trump campaign (if anyone doubted it in the first place) and ultimately sent a corrupt scumbag lobbyist to jail for tax evasion.

But this burst of transparency hasn’t done much good. Instead of reckoning with the fundamental rot in our political establishment and our political culture, all we’ve gotten is this non-stop selective outrage — a spectacle that puts Trump and his cronies and a foreign power at the center of everything that’s wrong domestically in America. But the problems are larger than Trump and they sure are larger than whatever foreign meddling may have occurred — whether from Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, Israel, or any of the other foreign and business interests that are constantly jockeying to sway the world’s most powerful empire.

Yasha Levine is an investigative journalist and a founding editor of The eXiled Online. His latest book is “Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet.”

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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27 comments for “Yes, Ukraine Meddled in the 2016 US Election

  1. G.
    December 5, 2019 at 14:20

    Manafort did million dollar deals with the Podestas for over 10 years — then offered to work for Trump for free.

  2. Daniel
    December 5, 2019 at 09:08

    I am a daily reader of this site and have always had a healthy skepticism of the propaganda emanating from corporate media, but I am really struggling with this Ukraine-interfered vs. that’s-a-debunked-conspiracy-theory conflict. Corporate media is really losing it’s mind on this one with virtually ALL of it shaming and shutting down anyone who acknowledges past reporting on this issue, as here. What is going on? How can one party tell a story that is (seemingly) obviously true and another claim that it never happened? Do the facts in this article and previous reporting have nothing to do with the ‘debunked conspiracy theory’ we are being shamed about? Are these two separate stories? Or is objective truth being ghosted out of existence now? I fear the latter.

    The propaganda hyper-drive that corporate media has accelerated since Clinton’s 2016 defeat has been quite astonishing to witness and a bit of a shock to me, even with all my skepticism. But it is now apparent to me that there is no depth too low for our corporate controllers to sink when tasked with defending their corrupt, violent, self-serving status quo. Trump is too much of a wild card on some points for these folks, it seems, so of course they feel he must be taken down. (On other points, they play right along as he delivers some of the benefits they feel their positions have privileged them.)

    And, despite my own feeling that the man is unfit for office and could rightly be impeached on any number of counts, the degradation of our discourse in service of this right now – and the slim propaganda-confused Ukraine shoulders upon which it is being laid – is absolutely sickening to me, and seems wildly off the mark. It is, however, giving those who benefit from our corrupt system a strong feeling of self-righteousness. So there’s that.

    Wonder not why Trump’s supporters aren’t jumping ship (Schiff?). They can smell the BS as well as anybody.

  3. Eugenie Basile
    December 5, 2019 at 04:44

    Watched the house judiciary hearing yesterday on CNN. Do the analysts on the Jake Tapper panel really believe all viewers of CNN have not one functioning brain cell left ?
    What was clear yesterday is that the Democrats are shooting themselves in the foot.
    When even the chairman of the judiciary committee doesn’t respect the principles of Law and Justice, ordering his committee to rubberstamp the partisan report of the Intel committee without any direct factchecking and possibility for minority members to call directly involved witnesses, this impeachment becomes void of any legitimacy.
    The three pro impeachment Law professors were so blinded by their Anti Trump feelings, they didn’t even realise the danger that this disastrous precedent will create.

  4. DH Fabian
    December 3, 2019 at 12:29

    We see the same familiar phrases, “catch words,” used throughout to sell Russia-gate, as if all of it has been written by a single small group of people. We see the same claims that someone said or wrote something that proves there was some INTENT to “meddle,” this was confirmed by (list pro-Democrat sources), and therefore Russia/Ukraine stole the election! Meddle? How? This began with the Clinton campaign team claiming that Russia hacked into voting machines across the country, a claim that media repeatedly stated was true. Proof? Other media said it was true! Except that an extensive investigation of voting machines across the country proved that it wasn’t. No matter, just keep spinning the tale, weaving in threads of Ukraine-gate in recent months. What does this “meddling” consist of? We still don’t know. They didn’t invade the US and overthrow the government, didn’t wage a massive propaganda campaign — although all of us who dared to criticize Clinton & Co. were accused of being “foreign operatives.” They didn’t hack into voting machines, and efforts to find the alleged “voter fraud” (on anyone’s behalf) fell flat. They no longer even bother trying to show that X did Y, invalidating the election results.

    Go back to the 2016 election results. In spite of so much Dem voter opposition to the Clinton right wing, Hillary Clinton got the most votes. Why did Russia and/or Ukraine try so hard to get her into the White House? Never mind that, just keep repeating the allegations. (Trump is president because he got the most electoral voted, something a foreign entity couldn’t influence, hack into, steal, etc., etc.)

    • Buddy
      December 5, 2019 at 12:36

      The George Constanza theory at work. “It’s not a lie if you believe it.” Oh how sad and true that is. So many people prefer to believe a lie than accept the truth.

  5. Piotr Berman
    December 3, 2019 at 10:56

    What is the latest on the authenticity of the “hand-written ledger” and Manafort payments? After all, NABU investigators had a lot of adversaries and aimed to “ugrobit'” them (word from Leshchenko tweet, “send to their tombs”).

    • michael
      December 4, 2019 at 04:20

      I heard on the radio that ‘the Ukraine did NOT interfere in the 2016 Election”; it has been “debunked”, just like Biden corruption there. There is no corruption in Ukraine, officially. The Establishment has backed up all the coup-born Ukrainians, Ukrainian Americans, “Anti-Corruption” Agencies and American Ambassadors who, despite published and videoed facts from the last three or more years, now will tell you there was “no interferference, no Black Ledger” of fake handwritten notes that has now disappeared (“no evidence, no crime”). The Ukrainians had nothing to do with Manafort being toppled as Trump’s Campaign Manager, despite all the evidence to the contrary (evidently invented by the Russians!!!) The US Establishment wants enough skirmishes with Russia on the Ukraine border “to the last Ukrainian” to sell arms, based on loans that will never be repaid, with politicians and their minions (not just Manafort!) lining their pockets.
      Just watched Tim Canova’s interview with Jimmy Dore from a few days ago. He ran in both 2016 and 2018. His story is a microcosm of what the Establishment has done to election integrity in America. It is a joke. Once the Establishment silences alt media, there is no point in having elections.

  6. December 3, 2019 at 10:47

    If you define “meddling” as “anything said or done by a non-US person that may somehow influence a US voter” then by that standard just about every country out there “meddles” in US elections.

    The difference between Russian “meddling” and Ukrainian “meddling” is that the Ukrainian flavor is welcomed by the US establishment.

    • Josep
      December 4, 2019 at 18:19

      I think it has something to do with the way Ukraine, like Georgia, is seen as a “victim” of what is touted as “Russian aggression” thanks to its relatively smaller size, though your guess is as good as mine.

  7. Exiled reader
    December 3, 2019 at 10:26

    I’m surprised to see Mark Ames (and Yasha) allow that Russia “interfered” in the election, especially in the context of WikiLeaks. Where is the evidence that Assange was some sort of Kremlin cut-out?
    Is this just a case of bowing slightly to the prevailing winds to prove a larger point, ie, western presstitutes are incapable of dialectical thinking? Understandable but be careful, 1st thing you’re making little concessions to establishment thinking, the next thing your shilling for forever wars.

  8. Bob Van Noy
    December 3, 2019 at 09:39

    As usual thank you CD.

    “What’s more: Ukrainian nationals didn’t just meddle on their own, they also worked with Americans — including Ukrainian-American political operatives on the payroll of the Democratic Party.”

    Many thanks Yasha Levine your statement above says it all and it’s terribly important that America understands that…

  9. michael
    December 3, 2019 at 07:29

    Of course the politicians of Ukraine worked openly with Ukrainian Americans and DNC members to knock Manafort out as the head of Trump’s campaign. These were locusts and parasites who came into power based on the American-backed coup, and they were eager to show their fealty to Hillary, and to Biden, as they stole everything that wasn’t nailed down, similar to the plague of Americans who descended on Russia after the Soviet Union collapsed. The median income of Ukrainians dropped over half after the coup; their culture of corruption, unlike that of their Ukrainian American overlords, is necessary to the bottom Ukrainians survival. So they bragged, wanting the world and particularly Hillary to know that Ukraine had interfered on her side in the Election. The facts are clear and straightforward, as the author notes (although there is too much incredulity in his tone. Maybe he reads MSM and is confused?)
    However we will not see a three year investigation of Hillary and Biden being in the pocket of Ukraine; that Russiagate nonsense was just a ruse to undercut America while they worked to get their agendas back on track. They are the Establishment politicians, they are Democrats of an administration who brought about coups and wars, and they want their monetary rewards from these actions, as do the FBI, State Department and CIA (in a more institutional sense) who crossed the red Hatch Act line to support political candidates (Hillary and Biden) in our now banana republic. The Establishment have been pushing neolib/neocon agendas since at least Bill Clinton, with ample support from Bush II (the groundwork) and particularly since Obama (who was able to greatly expand both the domestic police state and the Empire). They do not want some outsider, even the incompetent demagogue Trump, interfering in their best laid plans, and in their consensus community foreign policies. This has nothing to do with America per se, this is about extending their corrupt profitable dreams which are coming together after 20+ years of preparations.

  10. December 3, 2019 at 04:37

    “…three years later, this episode has been wiped from the collective memory of our media and political establishment.”

    But everything important in the United States is treated that way now. Everything.

    America has conducted more than 15 years of aggressive war in the Middle East, and you’d be hard put to find a single honest article about any of it in a mainline American publication or a story on air by broadcast journalism.

    America just conducted a coup against an elected government in Bolivia, attempted another, again against an elected government, in Venezuela, and is heavily pressuring the governments of Cuba and Nicaragua. What you see in America’s mainline press is not what has happened.

    And the nasty Bolsonaro government in Brazil definitely represents fiddling with the country’s institutions, including its courts, but you won’t read that in America’s press.

    Children are being hurt by lack of medicines and foodstuff in Iran, a country which done absolutely nothing illegal, yet that land of eighty million is just ignored, except for unwarranted insults. Never once are any of its leaders – including some highly intelligent and civil men like the President and the Foreign Minister – interviewed or allowed to make their case.

    A creepy outfit like the White Helmets in Syria receives nothing but admiration in America’s press, even though its main job has been to create pressure for increased bombing.

    America’s huge fleet of drones, each carrying Hellfire missiles, works day and night to kill people in many places without the least pretence of legality or justice. Try finding the victims’ faces in the press. Try finding stories about the bizarre buzz-cut CIA workers who sit at computer screens playing electronic games with live human beings.

    Doing that would represent a bit of what Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange did, and just look at their fates.

    If it weren’t for alternative and foreign press on the Internet, we’d know little about any of these things and far more. But even those sources are limited. All the Western European mainline press is under the same thumb. The Guardian or the BBC read like they were written in Langley Virginia when it comes to such matters.

    Russian sources are constantly attacked and vilified and threated. Outfits like Google, Washington’s willing helpers, now make it hard even to find legitimate alternate news sources. And what those sources write gets buried in search results. Wikipedia has armies of folks writing articles now in the same vein as those of the mainline press.

    The United States literally does not make any sense anymore. Contradictions all the time. No logic, no honest words ever come from officials or the press about any important matter.

    That is the just the nature of being at the center of a brutal empire, one engaged in countless dark and dishonest activities, not ready to be observed, and certainly not criticized, in any of them.

    Correcting the record is almost meaningless anymore. As is speaking the truth on almost any important matter.

    Look at Tulsi Gabbard and how she is treated by the establishment, including that of her own party.

    She’s the only Democratic candidate even saying a few honest things, and she is abused or ignored or brushed aside.

    Those who speak to establishment interests are given daily headline coverage, as Biden or Warren, even though they have nothing to say that is new or helpful or even honest.

    It really is a losing battle.

    The Inner Party has a small army of Outer Party workers constantly writing and rewriting Oceania’s current events and recent history. Computers make the work easier and more efficient than ever.

    I think the quality of truth in America today makes Donald Trump a perfect representative of the country. In many ways the perfect President. Full of contradictions and confusion, given to bellowing and virtually never telling the truth.

    • michael
      December 3, 2019 at 18:34

      Agree that this is representative of the American character. Disagree that it is a recent phenomenon. Americans killed off 15 to 20% of North Koreans in the Korean War (that percentage would equate to 50-60 million Americans), and killed 2.5 to 4 million in Southeast Asia (with quite a bit of CIA involvement in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. George HW Bush (who headed and was active with the CIA) ran the Iran Contra drug running scheme to get Reagan elected with the October Surprise, killing any Latin Americans who opposed his Freedom Fighters. Clinton’s sanctions killed 500,000 kids in Iraq and Albright noted “we think the price is worth it”; Clinton had no interest in the Rwanda genocide. The seven Forever Wars will likely multiply under Trump or his successor. That’s where the money is.
      9/11 supposedly happened because the CIA failed to “turn” Khalid al Mihdhar, who was also heavily involved with Saudi spooks. The CIA always escape any accountability or responsibility. Most of the CIA involved with “mistakes” of 9/11 were promoted despite (because?) of their illegal actions, which led to the Patriot Act, and forever wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, joined now by Libya, Yemen, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Ukraine and Honduras. Perkin’s “Confessions of an Economic Hitman” showed the basic model; the CIA, his “jackals”, have become less covert, their visibility projects power. The principals and goals are the same.
      More and more domestic actions will occur at the hands of the CIA, and their propaganda is passed down by the MSM on any important issue. The CIA is the Gestapo of the American Police State. Elected politicians are just clowns for entertainment.

    • December 3, 2019 at 18:38

      Chuckman good post.

    • Skip Scott
      December 4, 2019 at 07:01

      Caitlin Johnstone just published an article this morning about despair. It is an inevitable emotion for those of us who know the truth about the current state of affairs. Keep soldiering on John, your words have value. Who knows how many eyes are being opened every day by your efforts? And in the end we could never live with ourselves if we just quit the game.

      In some ways Trump is the perfect President for making the desperation of the Deep State more visible to the average person. There is less faith in the MSM today than there ever was before. It’s a starting point.

    • ML
      December 4, 2019 at 22:29

      Good post, Mr. Chuckman. Try and keep a sense of humor to ward off despair. Your post reminded me of one of my favorite H. L. Mencken quotes regarding who Americans elect as their presidents:
      “All the odds are on the man who is intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre- the man who can most adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum. The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office of the President represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their hearts’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.” H.L. Mencken

    • robert e williamson jr
      December 5, 2019 at 17:47

      Perfect read on it being what it is.

      Hunter S. Thompson described the dumbing down of America in his 1990 “SONGS OF THE DOOMED” .

      He was right and we now see the effects of the demise of American acceptable set of values. Far too many Americans have bull shitted themselves for far too long and it shows.

      Americans get what government they demand no more no less. The bar is pretty close to touching the ground right now.

      Some Americans want a malcontent, despot, bully to push “the other ” around and Trump is proving it by playing to his base.

      The far too many of rest of Americans could care less just as long as nobody screws up their good deal.

      This should be interesting and may become painful enough to enough Americans that some real progress and change can happen.

      We need to hope that this happens by ballot rather than by bullet.

  11. Eugenie Basile
    December 3, 2019 at 04:20

    A general warning for all viewers of the impeachment hearings: this is a political process that has no factual value. The witnesses are nothing more than politicized instruments for either political party.
    Congress being under control of the democrats, we got their version … As soon as the procedure is passed to the Senate, the republicans will take control.
    The timing should be a bonus for the reelection of Trump…. seems the DNC has learned nothing from their 2016 defeat.

  12. Hmmm
    December 3, 2019 at 00:49

    I think most of the politicians, press, and pundits can and do hold both thoughts in their head. They just lie about it shamelessly. Take Fiona Hill — she certainly knows better. But she’s an anti-Russian ideologue, on top of which she knows that her reputation in the proper circles now depends on promoting one of the two thoughts and dismissing the other. (Indeed, the mainstream press has been fawning over her as a “heroine” since her testimony.)

    Some people with influence may genuinely be unable to understand. But even with them, it’s mostly what Upton Sinclair said: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

    There’s no price to be paid for this lie. An article in Consortium News, or even The Nation — while commendable and most welcome, to be sure — doesn’t do the trick. Similar points made in conservative outlets get dismissed as pro-Trump propaganda.

    Anyway, it’s nice to run across a piece like this as a sanity check.

    • Piotr Berman
      December 3, 2019 at 11:12

      “An article in Consortium News, or even The Nation — while commendable and most welcome, to be sure — doesn’t do the trick. ”

      The outcome of these revelations is hard to foresee, but currently they are amplified by Fox News and other pro-Republican media. War liberals of the Democratic Party getting squeezed from both sides. Trump does not have many talents, but I know no one better at making adversaries look stupid, while getting away with inane rants — a trick that never ceases to amaze me.

      A tragedy is that by focusing on Russia, Democrats take oxygen away from other fires they should tend, pretty much like in 2016.

  13. December 2, 2019 at 20:03

    Excellent, but I was surprised to see the words “The hacking of email accounts belonging to the John Podesta and the Democratic National Committee,” when CN has well documented articles that it was an insider leak and not a hack. We need to squash the myth of hacking whenever we can.

    • Eugenie Basile
      December 3, 2019 at 04:25

      The Guccifer2 was definitely a hack with some Cyrillic traces…..( bit too obvious )

  14. jdd
    December 2, 2019 at 19:40

    Robert Mueller’s babbling notwithstanding, the VIPS have proven through uncontroverted forensic analysis, that Popdesta’s email account, like that of Hillary Clinton, was leaked not hacked. As Julian Assange, who is slowly being murdered in a British prison, has repeatedly stated, he did not receive the emails from “a state actor.” Yet the truth of what they revealed was, among other things, that the DNC conspired with the Clinton campaign to rig the 2016 primaries against Bernie Sanders, and Hillary Clinton to be a craven puppet of Wall Street. The big lie of “Russian hacking” needs to be fully exposed, as it sits at the very heart of the Russiagate narrative, and is the basis for all the lies that followed..

  15. Jeff Harrison
    December 2, 2019 at 19:22

    The truth is that lots of countries meddle in large and small ways and in effective and ineffective ways. The biggest meddler is Israel. Without US support, Israel would be a small piece of pea gravel on a hot asphalt road with a full sized steam roller headed her way. So they control the direction of the steam roller. The only countries that don’t meddle in American politics are countries that don’t care what the US does. There aren’t many of those. Companies hire lobbyists to meddle in Congressional decisions so that the government will issue edicts that favor their business over the people. Countries do the same thing. Sometimes they skip the lobbyist and do it themselves. Only Americans are stupid enough to think that it doesn’t happen. We have recently seen a parade of Americans who are that stupid and worse, they don’t seem to realize that the US has been doing that and worse all over the world.

    • Jb
      December 3, 2019 at 06:44


    • AnneR
      December 3, 2019 at 07:33

      Jeff – So true. I would only add that what Americans decry in other (usually, you know, those “lesser” countries of Africa, Asia and MENA) as rank corruption and blatant bribery is so well-established, deeply rooted, and by all appearances legalized in this country, particularly in DC that for the general population, whose voices, needs and desperation go totally unheeded (no money to sway Congressional minds), the lobbying, the really existing political meddling by such countries as Israel (Occupied Palestine) and, I would also add, the UK, is normal. And not the bribery, conniving, interference and corruption that it really, truly is.

      As for the well-educated bourgeoisie – they have, largely, benefited from the results of that bribery and corruption. Until the Strumpet pipped Killary to the post. (Not that they’ve not continued enjoy their self-presumed merited lifestyles even under him.)

      And it is abundantly clear that repeating the lies (even, especially when they are known to be lies by those controlling and disseminating the stories), obfuscating the truth by avoidance of those topics that the ruling elites want to remain unnoticed, has not only increased in the MSM but also continues to be believed by large swathes of the bourgeoisie who consider themselves to be “progressive,” “left-wing,” and who are juggling which Demrat candidate to vote for while ignoring what some candidates, at least, have voted *for* in Congress.

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