A Kyiv court said that a Ukrainian lawmaker and a top anticorruption official’s decision in 2016 to publish documents linked to President Donald Trump’s then-campaign chairman amounted to interference in the U.S. presidential election.
The December 11 finding came in response to a complaint filed by another Ukrainian lawmaker, who alleged that Serhiy Leshchenko and Artem Sytnyk illegally released the documents in August 2016, showing payments by a Ukrainian political party to Trump’s then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.
The documents, excerpts from a secret ledger of payments by the Party of Regions, led to Manafort being fired by Trump’s election campaign.
The Kyiv court said that the documents published by Leshchenko and Sytnyk were part of an ongoing pretrial investigation in Ukraine into the operations of the pro-Russian Party of Regions. The party’s head had been President Viktor Yanukovych until he fled the country amid mass protests two years earlier.
The court said the publication of the so-called “black ledger” documents “led to interference in the electoral processes of the United States in 2016 and harmed the interests of Ukraine as a state.”
In a post to Facebook on December 12, Leshchenko, who is a member of Ukraine’s parliament, criticized the ruling, saying it was politically motivated, and aimed at undermining Sytnyk, who is director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau.
The bureau, known as NABU, is a special agency set up to root out Ukraine’s notorious government corruption. However, it’s been hobbled by political infighting, and, according to some critics, has been undermined by President Petro Poroshenko and his allies.
Manafort’s consulting and lobbying work for the Party of Regions netted him millions of dollars over the past decade.
In 2017, he was charged with tax and bank fraud, in the first prosecution brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. A U.S. jury found him guilty of many of those charges in August.
He pleaded guilty to a separate set of charges, related to his failure to file required lobbying and foreign agent reports, and he agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s investigators.
However, Mueller’s team has accused Manafort of not being truthful about his contacts with a shadowy Russian operative whom U.S. prosecutors say works with Russian intelligence.
Manafort, who has been jailed since June, is scheduled to be sentenced on his jury conviction in February.