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Sen. John Kennedy repeats Ukraine conspiracy theory about DNC server

Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) reiterated a debunked conspiracy theory on "Fox News Sunday" that Ukraine may have interfered in the 2016 presidential election by hacking the Democratic National Committee's computer servers, despite consensus in the U.S. intelligence community that Russia was responsible for the attacks.

The exchange:

CHRIS WALLACE: "Senator Kennedy, who do you believe was responsible for hacking the DNC and Clinton campaign computers — their emails. Was it Russia or Ukraine?"
KENNEDY: "I don't know. Nor do you. Nor do any of us."
WALLACE "Let me just interrupt to say that the entire intelligence community says it was Russia."
KENNEDY: "Right, but it could also be Ukraine. I'm not saying that I know one way or the other."

Why it matters: Kennedy's comments come after former National Security Council official Fiona Hill publicly testified in an impeachment hearing last week that the conspiracy is "a fictional narrative that is being perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves."

  • "The unfortunate truth is that Russia was the foreign power that systematically attacked our democratic institutions in 2016," Hill said. "This is the public conclusion of our intelligence agencies, confirmed in bipartisan congressional reports."

Between the lines: Some Republicans have offered the Ukraine interference conspiracy as a justification for the Trump administration's decision to freeze military aid until Ukraine carried out an investigation into the 2016 election — an allegation now at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.

  • Trump brought up the conspiracy theory in his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and repeated the claim in an interview on "Fox and Friends" last week.
  • "A lot of it had to do, they say, with Ukraine," Trump said. "The FBI went in and they told them get out of here, we’re not giving it to you. They gave the server to CrowdStrike ... which is a company owned by a very wealthy Ukrainian, and I still want to see that server."

Reality check:

  • The CEO and co-founder of CrowdStrike, George Kurtz, was born in New Jersey.
  • There is no single server to hide in Ukraine. With modern computing, what people experience as a single server is actually dozens of different systems. Court documents show that the DNC decommissioned well over 100.
  • The FBI received a digital image of the servers — a complete record of what was on the unwieldy farm of physical computers. Physically obtaining the servers would provide no new information.

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