President Trump praised Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., for pushing the theory that Ukrainian interference in the 2016 presidential election was equivalent to Russian efforts.
During a Sunday interview with NBC News’ Chuck Todd, Kennedy stated as fact that Ukrainian officials “meddled in the election on social media and otherwise” to help the Democrats, implying an equivalence to Russia’s hacking of the Democratic National Committee and its extensive efforts on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms to heighten political discord, discredit American democracy and advance Trump’s candidacy.
“This entire effort to frame Ukraine for the Russian meddling of 2016, of which you just made this case that they’ve done it, that actually this is an effort of Russia propaganda, that this is a Russian intelligence propaganda campaign in order to get people like you to say these things about Ukraine,” Todd said. “Are you at all concerned you are doing Russian intelligence work here?”
“Russia was very aggressive, and they’re much more sophisticated,” said Kennedy. “But the fact that Russia was so aggressive does not exclude the fact that President [Petro] Poroshenko actively worked for Secretary Clinton.”
“Actively worked for Secretary Clinton? My goodness, wait a minute, Sen. Kennedy,” replied Todd. “You now have the president of Ukraine saying he actively worked for the Democratic nominee for president. C’mon. You realize the only other person selling this argument outside the United States is this man, Vladimir Putin.”
“Thank you to Great Republican [Sen. John Kennedy] for the job he did in representing both the Republican Party and myself against Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd on Meet the Depressed!” wrote Trump in a Monday morning tweet.
During his interview on “Meet the Press,” Kennedy cited a now-canceled ruling from a Ukrainian court that found officials there had interfered in the election by releasing a “black ledger” tied to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Kennedy said he based his conclusions on articles in Politico, the Washington Examiner and the British publications the Financial Times and the Economist. “I believe the reporting by the Financial Times,” Kennedy said. “I believe the reporting by the Washington Examiner. You should read the articles, Chuck. They are very well-documented.”
Financial Times U.S. correspondent Ed Luce said he had no idea what Kennedy was talking about. “I’ve been racking my brains, as have my colleagues, as to which Financial Times reporting Sen. Kennedy is referring to in support of this really fanciful contention that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 elections,” Luce said on “Morning Joe” Monday, “and I can’t find it.”
A spokesman for Kennedy did not immediately respond to a request by Yahoo News to provide citations for the senator’s claims.
During impeachment testimony in November, the White House’s former top expert on Russia said the idea that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election was a “fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.”
“Based on questions and statements I have heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country — and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did,” said former National Security Council staffer Fiona Hill in testimony to the House Intelligence Committee. “This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.
“The unfortunate truth is that Russia was the foreign power that systematically attacked our democratic institutions in 2016,” continued Hill. “This is the public conclusion of our intelligence agencies, confirmed in bipartisan congressional reports. It is beyond dispute, even if some of the underlying details must remain classified.”
Kennedy’s appearance on “Meet the Press” came a week after he pushed a related, also debunked, Republican talking point on Fox News. During an interview last Sunday with Chris Wallace, Kennedy said that no one knew who hacked the DNC email server and that it could have been Ukraine. Multiple investigations have found that Russia hacked the server, although this hasn’t stopped Trump from pushing the idea that Ukraine had something to do with it.
The following day, Kennedy told CNN that he had misheard Wallace’s question and that he had “seen no indication that Ukraine tried to do it.”
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