A week after claiming that he didn’t know whether Russia or Ukraine was responsible for hacking the DNC server during the 2016 election, Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) left Meet the Press anchor Chuck Todd astounded when he accused the former president of Ukraine of working for Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
At the top of their interview on Sunday, Todd brought up Kennedy’s eventual walk-back of his DNC remarks, asking the Louisiana lawmaker why he backtracked.
“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.”
The NBC News host went on to note that the main criticism Kennedy has faced in recent days is that he is conflating what Russia and Ukraine did during the 2016 election, stating that Kennedy appears to be doing President Trump’s “dirty work” for him.
Kennedy, meanwhile, insisted that there was sufficient evidence that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election on behalf of Clinton, citing a handful of articles to claim that a number of Ukrainian 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, referencing a court ruling that the leaking of the so-called “black ledger” on ex-Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort was against the law. (The court has since canceled that ruling.)
Todd would eventually confront Kennedy on the U.S. intelligence community recently briefing lawmakers that attempts to frame Ukraine for Russian election meddling was actually “a Russian intelligence propaganda campaign in order to get people like you to say these things about Ukraine," a briefing Kennedy claimed he didn't attend.
“When does opinion become fact?” Todd wondered aloud. “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?”
After once again noting that a Ukrainian court “smacked down several Ukrainian officials for meddling in our elections,” Kennedy then made a claim that gobsmacked the Meet the Press host.
“Russia was very aggressive and they’re much more sophisticated,” the conservative senator declared. “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 shot back. “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!”
The NBC host then highlighted the Russian president recently boasting that “nobody is accusing us anymore of interfering in U.S. election” but instead blaming Ukraine.
Todd further pushed back on Kennedy’s assertion, asking 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, for his part, said that there would be no harm allowing President Trump to “introduce evidence” that could support these assertions since Trump “has a demonstrated record fighting foreign corruption.”