Meet the Press host Chuck Todd pressed back against Republican Senator John Kennedy’s claim that the former president of Ukraine was working to help Hillary Clinton’s campaign, accusing Kennedy of selling the same conspiracy theories being pushed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Todd pressed Kennedy about remarks the Louisiana senator made last week about the 2016 hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s emails, saying he wasn’t sure if it was perpetuated by Russia or Ukraine. American intelligence agencies have said that Russia was behind the hacking, though President Donald Trump has cast doubt on the claims.
At the start of Sunday’s interview with Kennedy, Todd pointed out that the Louisiana senator was forced to walk back the claims about Ukraine in the face of criticism. Kennedy claimed that he misheard Fox News host Chris Wallace in last week’s interview, believing that he was being asked if Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election. Kennedy insisted that there was indeed evidence that Ukraine interfered in 2016 — while admitting that Russia was responsible for the actual hacking — and claimed that the top Ukrainian official was trying to help Clinton win.
“Russia was very aggressive and they’re much more sophisticated,” Kennedy said, via The Daily Beast. “But the fact that Russia was so aggressive does not exclude the fact that President Poroshenko actively worked for Secretary Clinton.”
The claim drew a sharp rebuke from Todd, who noted that there is nothing to back the claim and that Putin has been pushing it as well.
“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!”
Todd noted that Putin appears to be pleased to see Republicans pushing unfounded claims about Ukraine, recently boasting that “nobody is accusing us anymore of interfering in U.S. election” now that the attention has turned to Ukraine. Experts say that the claims also weaken Ukraine’s standing at a time when it is in an armed conflict with Russia.
As the impeachment hearings of Trump moved forward, many Republicans have tried to claim that Ukraine interfered in 2016 on behalf of Clinton, attempting to justify Trump’s withholding of military aid in the name of rooting out corruption. Trump has passed the same baseless claims as Kennedy, saying that the Ukrainian government was concealing evidence that may have proved Russia did not interfere in the election.