Dec 8, 2019

Cruz promotes conspiracy that Ukraine "blatantly interfered" in U.S. election

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday that Ukraine "blatantly interfered" in the 2016 election, repeating a conspiracy theory that experts warn has been promoted by Russian intelligence services.

"Because Russia interfered, the media pretends nobody else did. Ukraine blatantly interfered in our election. The sitting ambassador from Ukraine wrote an op-ed blasting Donald Trump during the election season. ... It's hysterical two years ago there was article after article after article in the mainstream media about Ukrainian interference in the elections, but now, the Democrats have no evidence of a crime. No evidence of violating the law. And so suddenly Ukraine interference is treated as the media clutches their pearls, oh my goodness, you can't say that! Last week, Chuck, you called Sen. John Kennedy basically a stooge for Putin."
— Ted Cruz to Chuck Todd

Why it matters: Cruz is one of several Republican senators who have refused to disavow the allegations that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election, despite receiving a briefing from intelligence officials that this is an alternative narrative being propagated by Russian security services.

  • Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), who said he did not attend the briefing, claimed on "Meet the Press" last week that former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko "actively worked" for Hillary Clinton.

Between the lines: The Ukrainian election conspiracy is one of the defenses that Trump's allies have used to justify his decision to withhold military aid to the country. White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said at a press conference in October that the aid was frozen until Ukraine investigated the interference allegations, before later being forced to walk it back.

Reality check: In 2014, Russia invaded, occupied and annexed the territory of Crimea from Ukraine. In response, the U.S. and much of the international community denounced Russia and refused to recognize its annexation of the peninsula.

  • During the 2016 election, Ukraine's ambassador to the U.S. Valeriy Chaly wrote an op-ed for The Hill in which he criticized candidate Trump for saying he would consider recognizing Crimea as Russian territory. That op-ed is one of several actions that Republicans say amount to election interference.

However, the scattershot criticisms from Ukrainian officials in the aftermath of Trump's Crimea comments differ greatly from the top-down, large-scale interference operation that the U.S. intelligence community has concluded was ordered directly by Vladimir Putin.

  • The Republican-led Senate Intelligence Community released an extensive report that found that Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee and funded a social media misinformation to sow discord in American politics.

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Nadler accuses Rep. Gohmert of spouting "Russian propaganda" on House floor

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said in an impeachment debate Wednesday that he is "deeply concerned that any member of the House would spout Russian propaganda on the floor of the House," referencing a preceding speech by Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas).

Go deeperArrowDec 18, 2019

Lindsey Graham warns Giuliani to make sure Ukraine dirt isn't Russian propaganda

Sen. Lindsey Graham. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images. Rudy Giuliani. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) warned Rudy Giuliani in an interview with The Daily Beast to make sure that the information he has gathered about President Trump's opponents in Ukraine isn't Russian propaganda.

“He has not shared any of that information with me. My advice to Giuliani would be to share what he got from Ukraine with the IC [intelligence community] to make sure it’s not Russia propaganda. I’m very suspicious of what the Russians are up to all over the world.” 
Go deeperArrowDec 29, 2019

NBC's Chuck Todd claims Republicans have an "incentive" to spread misinformation

Photo: Virginia Sherwood/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

NBC's Chuck Todd claimed in an interview with Rolling Stone that "the right" has "an incentive structure" to spread misinformation, specifically with respect to the conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election.

The big picture: Todd's popular show "Meet the Press" has consistently led its Sunday competitors in total viewers in 2019. Todd has had a number of combative interviews with Republicans and members of the Trump administration, and will host a special edition of MTP on Dec. 29 centered on the weaponization of disinformation.

Go deeperArrowDec 26, 2019