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FEC lawyers sought probe into possible Democrats outreach to Ukraine, overruled by GOP commissioners

The GOP-appointed commissioners expressed concerns about the FEC general counsel's reading of campaign contribution law.

Updated: June 17, 2021 - 10:16am

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Federal Election Commission election lawyers sought an investigation into whether the Democratic National Committee and a consultant colluded with the Ukrainian government to hurt the 2016 Trump campaign, but the effort was defeated by three GOP-appointed commission members, according to documents unsealed this week.  

The decision not to pursue a probable cause probe into possible collusion by the DNC and consultant Alexandra Chalupa was rejected in April in a 4-2 vote, with the three GOP appointees siding with commission Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub, a Democratic, according to documents unsealed Wednesday.

The request for a probe was based on a complaint by Matthew Whittaker, a former federal prosecutor and strong President Trump supporter who later became acting Attorney General in the Trump administration. 

The complaint argues Chalupa in August 2017 broke federal law prohibiting on foreign donations by soliciting damaging information and statements from Ukrainian government officials about Paul Manafort, who was Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman at the time, according to The New York Times.

Manafort was an adviser to former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych before join the campaign, according The Washington Free Beacon.

Chalupa acknowledged that she researched Manafort but denied receiving information from the Ukrainian government.

The three Republican commissioners said in a statement they voted against the probe over "grave constitutional and prudential concerns," the FEC general counsel's reading of campaign contribution law.

They also wrote that Chalupa's communication with the embassy "did not ask that Ukrainian officials convey a thing of value within the meaning of a ‘contribution’ to the DNC."