Politico reporter debunks right-wing attempts to use his article for Ukrainian collusion narrative

David Stern: “When you dig down into the details,” Trump/Russia and right-wing media spin about Ukraine and the DNC “are very, very different, and it’s important to note the difference”

On CNN’s New Day, a co-author of a January Politico article that conservative media have recently touted to claim that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) colluded with the Ukrainian government in a similar way to the alleged possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government explained that the situations are actually “very, very different.” Politico’s David Stern pointed out that “what we said in the article is that we don't have, as far as we can see, the type of top-down and wide, broad attack on the American election that was being alleged” about the Russian government and the Trump campaign. Stern added that the DNC consultant mentioned in the report who spoke to officials at the Ukrainian Embassy “was possibly, you could say freelancing when she spoke to them,” and not directed by the DNC. Right-wing media, as well as presidential aides and President Donald Trump’s lawyer, have all pushed the dubious Ukrainian collusion claim to downplay recent revelations about meetings between Russians and Trump’s family and campaign aides. 

From the July 17 edition of CNN’s New Day:

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Citation From the July 17, 2017, edition of CNN’s New Day:

ALISYN CAMEROTA (CO-HOST): David, what do you -- do you think that the Trump team is trying to conflate these two things, OK, that whatever meeting Don Jr. had with this Russian attorney is eclipsed, they say, by whatever this DNC consultant did with Ukraine. What is your take on this?

DAVID STERN: Well, first of all, I want to say that I'm not here to say whether there was collusion or not collusion. That's not my place to say that. I would say that, in broad strokes, what we have here is a similar situation, as we've had previously. It's not unknown. We've had these discussions many times before about foreign governments taking an interest in the American elections. We are the most powerful country in the world, and obviously people do try to influence it in their own way. So in a broad way, yes, these are similar situations. But when you dig down into the details, they're very, very different, and it's important to note the difference there. Now, we said in our article -- this was back in January, and already there were obviously accusations that were being voiced about Russian involvement, and what we said in the article is that we don't have, as far as we can see, the type of top-down and wide, broad attack on the American election that was being alleged. You don’t have the level --

CAMEROTA: Meaning it wasn’t top-down in the Ukraine. It was this woman, Alexandra Chalupa, who was what? Freelancing? Taking it upon herself to go check in with the Ukrainian embassy and see if they had any oppo research? How did those instructions come down?

STERN: Well, exactly. You have two things here. You've got the Ukrainian government, which is a huge thing, and when we say officials, we're also talking about people who are just deputies in the parliament and not necessarily connected with the president. And then you have Alexandra Chalupa, who is a consultant for the DNC and who had left in June. Now, there's questions about exactly where the work between the two or where they connected. Chalupa herself said that she did talk to the embassy, at least when she spoke to us. Now, she also said that there were no papers exchanged. And it's not uncommon, as we put in our report, for outside intermediaries to coordinate work. These are questions actually which -- it's not for me to report whether -- or to decide whether this was -- stepped over the line or not. What we were interested in saying, actually, was, here you have another country that is also interested in the American elections. And it became sort of a proxy battle between Ukraine and Russia, a battle which is happening in Ukraine itself.


CAMEROTA: David, let me just read this statement from her again, just so everyone’s clear. “During the 2016 U.S. election, I was a part-time consultant for the DNC running an ethnic engagement program. I was not an opposition researcher for the DNC, and the DNC never asked me to go to the Ukrainian Embassy to collect information.” Does that square with your reporting and what she told you in January?

STERN: Well, to be honest, Ken Vogel, who co-wrote the piece, he was the one who spoke to Alexandra. Now, I wasn't there for the entire conversation, but it was on the record, so it's easy to find out exactly what she said. That's possible, I guess you could say, from what I understand of what we reported and what she's saying, that the DNC did not ask her to go to the embassy. She had these relations with the embassy. She was possibly, you could say, freelancing when she spoke to them. Now, there was obviously cooperation, or there seemed to be some work, which she admitted to when she spoke to us. But the question here, I guess, is whether or not the DNC was asking her to do this. And remember, I said she was a consultant until June of 2016. So it's entirely possible that this was of her own -- that she did this on her own.