In recent weeks, comparisons have been made by certain media outlets, political pundits, even by President Trump himself, equating a so-called “collusion” of the Clinton campaign and Ukraine with the collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, which is currently under investigation. Those who make claims about “Ukraine and Clinton campaign collusion” have chosen to cherry-pick a few common characteristics – for example, that all political campaigns conduct oppositional research – and from these few specifics generalize to the whole. If A+B=C, that does not mean that A+G=C, just because both equations have “A” in common. Would one claim that golf and tennis are the same because both are sports and both use balls?
Several fundamental and major distinctions must be noted.
The allegations both of collusion between the Trump campaign with Russia and of the Russian government’s efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential elections proceed from US intelligence reports and public statements that there is agreement in the US intelligence community that Russian government actors were actively involved in the hacking of DNC computers, illegal distribution of obtained information, behind efforts to hack into certain state voter databases, and efforts to distribute disinformation through US media outlets to sway voters.
In congressional testimony, US intelligence officials have stated their belief that Russia’s intrusion into the US election should be considered “an act of war.” In short, the accusation is that the Russian government actively and broadly interfered in the process of the US elections and that there is adequate basis (basis, not proof) to investigate a relationship between the Trump campaign and that active interference. (Note to those who state there is no proof – that is what investigations do – proceeding from a basis to determine if there is proof). Importantly, THERE ARE NO public statements or reports or allegations from the US intelligence community that Ukrainian government actors did any of the above, or any similar actions, in a massive and planned effort to sway the US elections – OR – and this is key – that there was any effort on the part of the Ukrainian government to pursue or involve the Clinton campaign to do so. This is a fundamental and major distinction. The “Russian collusion/Trump campaign” investigation did not materialize out of thin air. However, there is no basis, other than hoping to divert attention and wishful thinking, for a similar accusation against Ukraine.
Another point – the government of Ukraine was investigating Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort for his activities on the territory of Ukraine long before the US election. As a sovereign nation, Ukraine has the right to conduct criminal investigations against individuals for crimes committed in Ukraine. This investigation has been ongoing for several years and a great deal of publicly available information could be and probably was being gathered to be used in “oppositional research” by the Democratic Party. Many Ukrainian and Ukrainian American journalists also have large files on Manafort. In fact, the Ukrainian American community in Connecticut held protests in 2016 outside Manafort’s hometown soon after the announcement was made appointing Manafort as Trump campaign manager. Ukraine-related social media was filled with giggles and HaHa emojis when Trump announced that he “just happened” to run into Manafort in the lobby of Trump Tower and Manafort came up to him, introduced himself as a Republican strategist who would run the Trump campaign for free. Ukrainians fully understood that Paul Manafort was a harbinger of danger. Just because 99% of Americans and the American news media did not know about Manaforts’ efforts to swing a presidential election in Ukraine with the support of oligarchs who were Putin’s major allies does not mean that this information was unknown or was some big secret. Researching, obtaining, and confirming information known and available in Ukraine is not the same as Russia hacking into computers in the United States to obtain information. The DNC did not hack private or Ukrainian government computers to obtain and disclose information about the suspicions and shady dealings by Manafort.
A third point – the tweet posted at 6:03am by the president on July 25 quoting Fox’s Sean Hannity – Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump campaign – “quietly working to boost Clinton.” So where is the investigation A.G. – not only contains a lie, since there was no effort by the government of Ukraine to sabotage the Trump campaign and/or influence US elections, the tweet is a cynical and very dangerous effort to divert attention from the investigation into the connections between the Trump campaign and Russia. In doing so, the president is sending a signal to Russia that he, the chief executive of the United States, has little concern for Ukraine, thereby emboldening Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. The president appears to be unaware and/or uncaring of the danger his tweet poses and is callous about his irresponsible and inappropriate action. This message risks lives – more than 3,000 Russian soldiers and 8,000 Ukrainian soldiers and civilians have died on Ukrainian territory since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014. Why would the US president want that number to increase? Ukraine is undergoing a huge humanitarian crisis – the war has created an internal refugee problem – according to the UN December 2016 report, more than 1.6 million IDPs. Since the US president’s return from the G-20 summit, Russia, has visibly stepped up the tempo of the war it is conducting in Ukraine. Unlike the US and Russia, the US and Ukraine are in a strategic alliance; the president’s responsibility is to support and not endanger that relationship.