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Democratic senator asks DOJ and FBI to not cooperate with colleagues' Ukraine-Chalupa probe


'The FBI is not a political weapon'

Anna Moneymaker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The top Democrat on an important Senate committee is asking that the Trump administration not cooperate with an investigation into a Ukraine-related investigation being conducted by two of his Republican colleagues.

In a letter first reported by The Daily Beast on Thursday, Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) urged Attorney General William Barr and FBI Director Chris Wray not to comply with a November request from Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) for information about Alexandra Chalupa, the former Democratic National Committee contractor who has been accused of working with Ukrainian officials to dig up dirt on the 2016 Trump campaign.

The request that Wyden is referring to was sent to the DOJ and FBI in November and was part of Grassley's and Johnson's committees' "ongoing investigation into collusive actions Chalupa and the DNC took to use foreign government sources to undermine the Trump campaign during the 2016 election." Grassley chairs the Senate Finance Committee while Johnson heads up the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

In the November letter, the two chairmen cited a Russian cyberattack that Chalupa reportedly experienced while working for the DNC during the 2016 campaign and subsequently reported to the feds. The letter contends that the attack happened while Chalupa was "reportedly trying to find dirt" on then-candidate Donald Trump and former campaign manager Paul Manafort "in order to undermine his presidential campaign" and in turn, asks for "all records relating to the DOJ's or FBI's interview of Chalupa" as well as "all records relating to the imaging of Chalupa's laptop and smartphone."

But Wyden wrote Thursday that the request was "outrageous" and warned that it would have negative consequences for national security and civil liberties, if fulfilled.

"The Senators' request will have a chilling effect on the victims of nation-state cyber-attacks and would discourage them from seeking law enforcement assistance, thereby jeopardizing our national security, limiting our ability to respond to sophisticated cyber-attacks, and undermining the civil liberties of American citizens," Wyden wrote.

Wyden also accused his two Republican colleagues of trying to "enlist the FBI and Department of Justice in their efforts to legitimize Russian propaganda" via their Ukraine probe.

"The FBI is not a political weapon and should be pressured into violating a citizen's civil liberties for political gain," he added.

In a statement to The Daily Beast, a Grassley staffer said, "Wyden's letter conflates Russian propaganda efforts with unrelated reports of potential election interference that have yet to be fully investigated. ... It's disappointing that Sen. Wyden has decided to ignore legitimate questions about election security and instead regurgitate misleading liberal talking points to quash scrutiny of reported election tampering by a Democratic political operative."

In addition to the Chalupa-Ukraine issue, Grassley and Johnson have also started looking into questions regarding Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings, its former board member Hunter Biden, and the Obama administration's State Department. In November, the pair sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requesting information in an effort "to better understand what actions, if any, the Obama administration took to ensure that policy decisions relating to Ukraine and Burisma were not improperly influenced by the employment and financial interests of family members."

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