16 people who shaped the 2016 election: Alexandra Chalupa

By Nov. 9, the votes will have been cast and counted, there will be a winner and a loser, and the country will begin a slow return to normal. Historians will have their say on the outcome, but all of us who have lived through this election will carry away indelible memories of a shocking year in American history: of a handful of ordinary people, swept up in the rush of history; of a series of moments on which the fate of the nation seemed, at least briefly, to turn; and of places on the map that became symbols of a divided nation. As we count down to Election Day, Yahoo News has identified 16 unforgettable people, moments and places.

As a Democratic Party consultant and proud Ukrainian-American, Alexandra Chalupa was outraged last spring when Donald Trump named Paul Manafort as his campaign manager. Chalupa had been following Manafort’s career ever since he popped up in Kiev more than a decade ago as an adviser and campaign consultant to the pro-Russian political party in Ukraine. As she saw it, Manafort was a key figure in advancing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s agenda inside her ancestral homeland — and she was determined to expose it.

Soon enough, Chalupa — who was in charge of the Democratic National Committee’s “ethnic outreach” efforts — began circulating memos and emails laying out Manafort’s connections. She exchanged messages about him with investigative journalists in Kiev. She even helped organize a rally among Ukrainian-Americans in New Britain, Conn. (Manafort’s hometown). Protesters railed against Manafort as “Putin’s Trojan Horse” and demanded that Trump fire him.

As she was doing so, Chalupa discovered she herself had become a target. On April 20, she got the first of a series of pop-up messages from Yahoo security notifying her she had been the victim of a “state sponsored” cyberattack. It was an early sign of what would soon become one of the biggest political stories of the year: a massive cyberattack on the Democratic National Committee and other political organizations that U.S. intelligence has now concluded was the work of Russian intelligence. “I was freaked out,” Chalupa told Yahoo News in August. “This was really scary.”

Since then, FBI agents have questioned Chalupa — and imaged her laptop and smartphone — as part of a wide-ranging investigation into the Russian cyberattacks. But even though she has since left the DNC, and Manafort has resigned from the Trump campaign, Chalupa hasn’t abandoned her efforts to publicize what she sees as the overly cozy relationship between the GOP nominee and Moscow. She’s still helping to organize Ukrainian-Americans and other ethnic groups to oppose Trump in the election. And when Trump seemed to question during the Oct. 9 debate whether the Russians were behind any cyberattacks (“Maybe there is no hacking,” he said), Chalupa fired back on Twitter. “Trump doing a great job promoting Putin this debate,” she tweeted. Underneath she posted a mock photo of a smug Russian president holding up a toy doll with the smiling face of the GOP nominee. — By Michael Isikoff

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