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GOP senator clashes with NBC's Todd over Ukrainian interference

Ros Krasny, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- Republican Sen. John Kennedy argued for a second Sunday that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. election, pushing what U.S. intelligence officials have called a Russian talking point, in a testy interview that got #ChuckTodd trending on Twitter.

Sunday's exchange with Todd, the NBC News correspondent and host of "Meet the Press," followed one a week earlier with Chris Wallace, the anchor of "Fox News Sunday."

In each instance, the Louisiana lawmaker said comments made under oath by former White House official Fiona Hill -- that Ukraine wasn't involved in the 2016 interference campaign, and that Russia is pushing that idea as part of a propaganda effort -- were merely her "opinion."

"The Russians have a particular vested interest in putting Ukraine, Ukrainian leaders in a very bad light," Hill testified.

On NBC, when asked about the conclusion of "17 intelligence services" about the 2016 U.S. election, Kennedy said it was "well-documented" that "both Russia and Ukraine meddled." He cited articles in publications ranging from the Financial Times and the Economist to the Washington Examiner.

In her testimony to the House Intelligence Committee on Nov. 21, Hill, a former National Security Council expert on Russia, said the notion of Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election was a "fictional narrative" created to advance Russian interests.

Kennedy on Sunday went a step further in his assessment, saying without evidence that Ukraine's president at the time, Petro Poroshenko, "actively worked" for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.


Asked if he was "at all concerned you're doing Russian intelligence work here," Kennedy said he didn't attend a classified briefing -- done after Hill's testimony -- in which U.S. intelligence officials told senators that the effort to frame Ukraine was an effort of a Russian propaganda campaign. The New York Times reported on the briefing for lawmakers and their aides on Nov. 23.

"I wasn't briefed," Kennedy said. "Dr. Hill is entitled to her opinion."

"You should read the articles, Chuck," Kennedy added. "They are very well documented."

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