Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) visited Fox News yesterday to rehab his widely-discredited comments about Ukraine and Russia by essentially arguing he got his debunked, Trumpy conspiracy theories mixed up. And hosts Bill Hemmer and Sandra Smith were there to help!
On Sunday, Kennedy gave credence to the right-wing conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, hacked the DNC in 2016. Unfortunately for Kennedy, his efforts to play on Team Trump backfired with the reality based world.
Yesterday, he returned to Fox to clean up his remarks by claiming he had misheard the original question. He said what he really meant was that Ukraine had meddled in our election – which is another debunked conspiracy theory.
On Fox’s America’s Newsroom show yesterday, Kennedy said, “Let me be clear, Russia hacked the DNC computer. I have no evidence whatsoever the Ukraine did it. There is, however, plenty of evidence that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election. Specifically, President Poroshenko.”
“Don’t take my word for it,” Kennedy continued as he cited a January, 2017 “exhaustive investigation” done by Politico as well as reports by CBS News, the Washington Examiner and The Economist. “And there is beaucoup, as we say in Louisiana, evidence that Ukraine tried to meddle in the 2016 election.”
Unfortunately for Kennedy, Politico’s “exhaustive investigation” concluded no such thing. Don’t take my word for it, take Politico’s. That publication has specifically disavowed Kennedy’s latest claim. It wrote about Kennedy’s similar “walk back” on CNN with Andrew Cuomo:
While speaking with Cuomo, Kennedy cited a POLITICO article from 2017 that revealed Ukrainian efforts to expose ties between Russia and Trump's team. Several Republicans have been attempting to equate those efforts with the systematic, top-down intervention by Russia in 2016 — a campaign longtime observers determined Ukraine would be incapable of carrying out.
Former special counsel Robert Mueller wrote in his report on 2016 election interference that Ukraine did not lead a major effort to undermine the U.S. election by violating campaign infrastructure in the manner Russia did.
Neither cohost of America’s Newsroom challenged Kennedy’s latest gaslighting. So he continued with his Trump talking points:
KENNEDY: Why is this important? Because my Democratic friends want to prevent the president from offering any evidence that Ukraine is organically and historically corrupt and that [Trump] was concerned about corruption [when he withheld Congressionally-authorized aid to Ukraine].
Ukraine is organically and historically corrupt. I hope President Zelensky does better but their government in the past has been corrupt. They’re almost as bad as Russia and they’re just trying to keep the president from offering a defense and that is, I believe the government there was corrupt and I’m entitled to investigate it.
FACT CHECK: The Department of Defense certified in May that Ukraine had taken sufficient steps to combat corruption and increase accountability more than a month before Trump put the hold on the aid in July.
Neither of the Fox cohosts mentioned that. Instead, cohost Bill Hemmer helped promote Kennedy’s “I mixed up the way Ukraine interfered” rehab effort by disingenuously cherry-picking quotes from the 2017 Politico article. Hemmer left out the part that states, Ukraine’s efforts “were far less concerted or centrally directed than Russia’s alleged hacking and dissemination of Democratic emails. Russia’s effort was personally directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, involved the country’s military and foreign intelligence services, according to U.S. intelligence officials. … There’s little evidence of such a top-down effort by Ukraine.”
It just so happens that Sean Hannity has been touting that same 2017 Politico report to support his Ukraine-meddling conspiracy theory, too. In a July, 2017 article, The Washington Post’s Philip Bump debunked Hannity’s conclusions. Bump noted, among other things, that, “what’s missing is evidence of a concerted effort driven by Kiev.” Also missing is any clear evidence of a coordination between the Hillary Clinton campaign and Ukraine. On the other hand, Bump pointed out, there is evidence of the Donald Trump campaign working with Russia.
In addition to tacitly validating Kennedy’s latest unfounded conspiracy theory, Hemmer aided in the Kennedy rehab effort. “So what you’re saying is, there’s a difference between the DNC server hacking and other election meddling, just to be clear on that, correct?”
Actually, what Kennedy was really saying is that there’s a distinction without a difference.
“Yes, Ukraine did not hack the server but they sure as heck tried to interfere in the election and it’s been well-documented,” Kennedy replied.
Watch Kennedy’s faux walk back below, from the November 26, 2019 America’s Newsroom, via Media Matters.
If you apply a Jeopardy test and try to write a question that fits Kennedy’s response to Chris Wallace then ‘Who interfered in election 2016, Russia or Ukraine?’ doesn’t fit. Kennedy said “I don’t know, nor do you”. Yet, here he’s telling America’s Newsroom (AN) Mini Trumps One and Two he knows in fact Russia hacked the DNC and Clinton email servers. Give me a break, Senator, you’re admitting here Russia interfered by releasing damaging emails to Wikileaks! Care to try another gaslight?
Then there’s the 5 ton bull elephant in the room: Trump wasn’t interested in “organic” or “historic” Ukrainian corruption but only cared specifically the single case of Burisma. What a coincidence! Oh, another coincidence. Burisma – Hunter Biden specifically – is the only example of Ukrainian corruption you mention too! Do you really think you’re extricating yourself here on AN from looking like a disingenuous idiot?
I don’t know why Senator Kennedy mentions Politico because I read their original article and it spends as much time talking about Russia’s interference and emphasizing clearly how much more expansive, top down (“personally directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin”) and top down it was. Ukraine’s efforts were focused on Paul Manafort and were successful in getting him removed. They also promoted the Trump campaign to Russia connection.
Certainly, if Kennedy wants to investigate Ukrainian corruption per Politico which got him worked up about it then go ahead. But that’s just another poke at the Mueller Report. If Kennedy wants to look at “organic” Ukrainian corruption today he needs to include Trump, Giuliani, et al.