WASHINGTON – FBI Director Christopher Wray said there was no indication that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 U.S. election, contradicting claims made by President Donald Trump and several Republican lawmakers in recent weeks.
"We have no information that indicates that Ukraine interfered with the 2016 presidential election," he said in an ABC News interview aired on Monday.
When asked if he's concerned about the impact of politicians pushing the discredited claim that Ukraine interfered, Wray demurred, saying, "There's all kinds of people saying all kinds of things out there."
"I think it's important for the American people to be thoughtful consumers of information and to think about the sources of it and to think about the support and predication for what they hear," he added.
His comments come a day after a testy exchange between NBC News' "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who said he believed there was "considerable evidence" that "Ukraine blatantly interfered in our election" alongside Russia.
Cruz pointed to an op-ed by a former Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S. as evidence of meddling, but Todd noted that it was entirely different from Russia's interference, which Special Counsel Robert Mueller called a "sweeping and systematic" effort to tip the election in Trump's favor.
Several Ukrainian officials voiced concern in 2016 about then-candidate Trump's friendly statements toward Russia and its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
Cruz is one of several lawmakers including Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., who have raised the idea that both Ukraine and Russia meddled in 2016 as they try to mount a defense for Trump in the ongoing impeachment inquiry. House Democrats are drawing up articles of impeachment over allegations that Trump sought to pressure Ukraine to open two investigations that politically benefited him.
The president's allies argue that Ukraine's potential interference gave him ample reason to ask for the investigations. But while lawmakers have said there's no dispute that Russia interfered, Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani have promoted a theory that Ukraine - not Russia - was behind the 2016 meddling.
During his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump made reference to a conspiracy theory that Ukraine - not Russia - stole emails from the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign.
When asked about the president raising the conspiracy theory, Wray again repeated the FBI has "no information to indicate that Ukraine tried to interfere" in the election.
Some Republicans have criticized their colleagues for equating Russia's sophisticated cyberattack and social media campaign with Ukrainian disapproval of Trump's remarks.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told Politico that "it’s important to distinguish op-eds" from "the systemic effort to undermine our election systems."
"There’s no way to compare any other efforts to what Russia did in 2016," Rubio said. "There’s nothing that compares, not even in the same universe.”
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, a vocal critic of Trump, told reporters last week, "It's one thing to pull for the candidate. It's another thing to interfere as Russia did.”
Contributed: William Cummings
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: FBI director says 'no indication' of Ukraine interference in 2016