- ABC News has added a major correction to a report that U.S. officials set preconditions for a meeting between President Trump and Ukraine’s president
- ABC inaccurately identified the source of the story, Serhiy Leshchenko, as an adviser to Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president.
- Leshchenko has not been an adviser to Zelensky for months. He is also disputing the quotes ABC attributed to him
- Nellie Ohr testified to Congress last year that Leshchenko was a source of information for Fusion GPS
ABC News added a major correction to a would-be bombshell report on Wednesday that said the Trump administration required Ukraine’s president to discuss Joe Biden as a precondition to meet with President Donald Trump.
The story would have been a huge development in the saga involving a whistleblower who filed a complaint regarding a July 25 phone call between Trump and Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian leader. The whistleblower asserted in the complaint that Trump pressured Zelensky to investigate Biden’s son’s Ukrainian business dealings.
A transcript of that phone call shows that Trump brought up concerns about the Bidens, but Trump denied pressuring Zelensky on the matter.
If true, the ABC story would have called that denial into question, and given Democrats more ammunition for their push to impeach Trump.
But ABC’s story has several problems.
The source for the report was Serhiy Leshchenko, a former member of Ukraine’s parliament who ABC inaccurately identified as a current adviser to Zelensky.
ABC quoted Leshchenko as confirming that Trump associates told Ukrainian officials that Biden had to be a topic of discussion in order for Trump to meet Zelensky.
“Ukrainian officials were asking for a meeting with Trump for a long time. As I remember, it was a clear fact that Trump wants to meet only if Biden case will be included,” Leshchenko told ABC.
“This issue was raised many times. I know that Ukrainian officials understood.”
Leshchenko has since walked back his comments, saying that he did not tell ABC News that there were preconditions for a Trump-Zelensky meeting. Leshchenko later told a BBC reporter that he had learned of a possible precondition only through media reports.
ABC corrected the story to note that Leshchenko has also not been an adviser to Zelensky for months.
But ABC’s initial story left out several key details about Leshchenko that would have raised questions about his thoughts on U.S.-Ukraine relations, and of Trump.
Nellie Ohr testified to Congress on Oct. 19, 2018, that Leshchenko was a source of information for Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that gathered dirt on Trump on behalf of the DNC and Clinton campaign. Ohr, who worked as a contractor for Fusion GPS, was unable to describe how the information made its way from Leshchenko to Fusion GPS.
Leshchenko told The Daily Caller News Foundation on Wednesday that he has no recollection of meeting anyone from Fusion GPS, but he could not rule out that he provided information to someone who worked for the firm without identifying their employer.
Representatives from Fusion GPS acknowledged receiving a request for comment about Leshchenko back in February, but did not respond with comment at the time.
Leshchenko is also no fan of Trump or Rudy Giuliani, who has led a one-man campaign to dig up dirt in Ukraine on the Bidens.
Leshchenko is best known for his role in pushing the controversial “black ledger” that purportedly shows illicit payments that Ukrainian officials made to Paul Manafort when he was a consultant for Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.
Leshchenko helped publicize the document after it was reported by The New York Times in August 2016. That story led to Manafort’s ouster from the campaign, but the longtime political consultant has long claimed the document is a forgery.
Leshchenko has denied that the ledger is a fake, but its legitimacy still remains in limbo.
“A Trump presidency would change the pro-Ukrainian agenda in American foreign policy,” Leshchenko told the Financial Times days after the ledger was published.
“For me, it was important to show not only the corruption aspect, but that he is [a] pro-Russian candidate who can break the geopolitical balance in the world.”
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