Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) on Thursday asked Attorney General William Barr and FBI Director Christopher Wray to refuse to cooperate with a Senate Finance Committee investigation request for records voluntarily provided to the FBI by former Democratic National Committee consultant Alexandra Chalupa.
Wyden said turning over the records would have a “chilling effect” on victims hacked by foreign governments and prevent them from voluntarily turning over evidence in the future, according to the Daily Beast.
After noticing she had been the potential victim of a Russian cyber-attack in 2016, Chalupa informed the FBI and allowed agents to digitally image her laptop and smartphone in connection with the investigation into Russian election meddling.
Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), the Republican chairs of the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, wrote a letter in November to Barr and Wray seeking the digital images of Chalupa’s devices as part of an investigation into the debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 presidential election.
“If this reporting is accurate, it appears that the DOJ and FBI have in their possession material relevant to our 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,” the letter stated.
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) has repeatedly accused Chalupa of “work[ing] with Ukrainian embassy officials to spread dirt on the Trump Campaign.” She, in turn, has denied this repeatedly.
“During the 2016 US election, I was a part-time consultant for the DNC running an ethnic engagement program,” Chalupa said in a statement before. “I was not an opposition researcher for the DNC, and the DNC never asked me to go to the Ukrainian Embassy to collect information.
Grassley and Johnson’s letter was sent one day after former National Security Council (NSC) official and Russia expert Dr. Fiona Hill testified before Congress that the CrowdStrike conspiracy theory was a “fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.”
As previously reported by Law&Crime, Hill concisely explained it was “beyond dispute” that Russia, not Ukraine, was the foreign power that “systematically attacked” America’s democratic institutions in the lead up to the presidential election, noting this was also the conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies and a bipartisan congressional report. She also warned members of Congress of the threat they pose to national security in promulgating baseless conspiracy theories.
Wyden urged the executive branch agencies not to cooperate with the investigation, which he called an “effort to legitimize Russian propaganda.”
“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 in the letter.
“The FBI is not a political weapon,” he continued, “and should not be pressured into violating a citizen’s civil liberties for political gain.”
[image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]