Just one week ago Sen. John Kennedy claimed that he was unsure if Russia or Ukraine was responsible for interfering in the 2016 presidential election. On Sunday, while appearing on “Meet the Press” Kennedy shocked host Chuck Todd by accusing the former president of Ukraine of working with Hillary Clinton and her campaign.
As the interview began Todd spoke about Kennedy’s “walk-back” of the remarks that he previously made about the DNC. Todd asked Kennedy why he was backtracking.
“Well, Chris Wallace was interviewing me and he asked me a question. I answered it. I thought he had asked me if Ukraine had meddled in the 2016 election,” the Republican senator replied, reiterating previous excuses he had given. “He didn’t, he asked me if Ukraine was responsible for hacking the DNC computer, which is, of course, a form of meddling. I went back and looked at the transcript and I realized Chris was right and I was wrong so I said I was wrong.”
Todd stated that the main criticism Kennedy had faced in the past few days was connected to his conflating what Russia and Ukraine did in the 2016 election. Todd went on to state that it appeared that Kennedy was now doing Trump’s “dirty work.”
Kennedy would go on to insist that there was sufficient evidence that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election on behalf of Hillary Clinton. He would then cite articles in order to claim that a number of Ukranian officials “meddled in the election on social media and otherwise.”
“In fact, in December of 2018, a Ukrainian court ruled that Ukrainian officials had violated Ukrainian law by meddling in our election and that was reported in The New York Times,” Kennedy added.
Todd then confronted Kennedy about the U.S. intelligence community recently briefing lawmakers that attempts to frame Ukraine for Russian election meddling were actually “a Russian intelligence propaganda campaign in order to get people like you to say these things about Ukraine.”
“When does opinion become fact?” Todd asked. “Does 17 intelligence services saying it, does every western intelligence ally saying Russia did this—I get sort of confused at what point is it no longer an opinion for you?”
Kennedy then noted that a Ukrainian court “smacked down several Ukrainian officials for meddling in our elections.”
“Russia was very aggressive and they’re much more sophisticated,” Kennedy stated. “But the fact that Russia was so aggressive does not exclude the fact that President Poroshenko actively worked for Secretary Clinton.”
“Actively worked for Secretary Clinton?! My goodness, wait a minute, Senator Kennedy,” Todd said astounded by Kennedy’s statement. “You now have the president of Ukraine saying he 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!”
Todd would then highlight the Russian president recently boasting that “nobody is accusing us any more of interfering in U.S. election” because they were now trying to lay it at the feet of Ukraine.
Todd then pushed back on Kennedy’s assertion. He asked him if he believed that “Ukrainian officials criticizing Trump during the election over his endorsement of Russia’s annexation of Crimea was equivalent to Russia’s hacking.”
Kennedy stated that there would be no harm in allowing Donald Trump to “introduce evidence” that would support the assertions because Trump “has a demonstrated record fighting foreign corruption.”