5. A widely criticized Ukrainian prosecutor piqued Trump’s and Giuliani’s interest by floating allegations to The Hill — but then backtracked.
In several public comments, Mr. Lutsenko also stated that he wished to communicate directly with Attorney General Barr on these matters. The allegations by Mr. Lutsenko came on the eve of the first round of Ukraine’s presidential election on 31 March. By that time, Mr. Lutsenko’s political patron, President Poroshenko, was trailing Mr. Zelenskyy in the polls and appeared likely to be defeated. Mr. Zelenskyy had made known his desire to replace Mr. Lutsenko as Prosecutor General. On 21 April, Mr. Poroshenko lost the runoff to Mr. Zelenskyy by a landslide.
The whistle-blower traces Mr. Trump’s July 25 call back to claims put forward by a former top Ukrainian prosecutor, Yuriy Lutsenko, and his allies to a conservative opinion contributor for The Hill, John Solomon, in the spring of 2019. Mr. Solomon is known for writing investigative-style pieces that foster a narrative that Mr. Trump’s enemies are up to nefarious misdeeds, which are often then amplified by the Fox News host Sean Hannity.
In a video interview and several articles, Mr. Solomon floated a number of claims by Mr. Lutsenko, including that Ukrainian officials had illegally colluded with Democrats to interfere in the 2016 presidential election to help Hillary Clinton, purportedly by leaking financial records that prompted the resignation of Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. Mr. Solomon also amplified Mr. Lutsenko’s assertion that the Obama-appointed ambassador to Ukraine, a longtime career diplomat, had given Mr. Lutsenko a “do not prosecute list.” A third claim that Mr. Solomon put forth was Mr. Lutsenko’s allegation that Mr. Biden had pushed to fire a previous top Ukrainian prosecutor, Victor Shokin, in order to quash a purported criminal investigation into a Ukrainian company on whose board his son Hunter Biden sat.
In fact, the Obama administration, Western supporters of Ukraine and anti-corruption activists all wanted Mr. Shokin out because he was widely seen as an obstacle to reform and refused to bring corruption cases. The State Department called Mr. Lutsenko’s claim about a do-not-prosecute list “an outright fabrication,” and in May Mr. Lutsenko walked back his allegations about the Bidens, stating that there was no evidence they had done anything wrong.
Mr. Lutsenko, who succeeded Mr. Shokin, was initially seen as a better prosecutor, but his image tarnished over time. The whistle-blower complaint noted that, “Mr. Lutsenko has no legal training and has been widely criticized in Ukraine for politicizing criminal probes and using his tenure as Prosecutor General to protect corrupt Ukrainian officials.” But Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani remained intent on investigating what he had told Mr. Solomon. The State Department has since recalled the ambassador, and in the July 25 phone call, Mr. Trump was apparently referring to Mr. Lutsenko when he told the Ukrainian president that, “I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good and he was shut down and that’s really unfair.”
On Thursday, Mr. Solomon defended his work, tweeting, “I stand by my stories 100 percent.”