In an interview with Chuck Todd on NBC's "Meet The Press," Sen. John Kennedy explained the Republican strategy to defend President Trump from impeachment and rejected the premise that only Russia or only Ukraine could have intervened in the 2016 election.
"I think both Russia and Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election. I think it’s been well documented in the Financial Times and Politico and The Economist and the Washington Examiner, even on CBS that the prime minister of Ukraine, the interior minister, the Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States, the head of the Ukrainian anti-corruption league all meddled in the election on social media and otherwise. They worked with the DNC operative against the president," Kennedy said in response to questions about comments he made last week in an interview with FOX News.
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"Chris Wallace was interviewing me and he asked me a question. I answered it. I thought he had asked me if Ukraine had meddled in the 2016 election," the senator replied. "He didn’t, he asked me if Ukraine was responsible for hacking the DNC computer, which is, of course, a form of meddling. I went back and looked at the transcript and I realized Chris was right and I was wrong so I said I was wrong."
"Are you at all concerned you are doing Russian intelligence work here?" Chuck Todd asked. "When does opinion become fact? Does 17 intelligence services saying it, does every western intelligence ally saying Russia did this? I’m just sort of confused. At what point is it no longer an opinion for you?"
"You should read the articles, Chuck. They’re very well documented," Kennedy replied. "And I believe that a Ukrainian district court in December of 2018 smacked down several Ukrainian officials for meddling in our elections, a violation of Ukrainian law."
"In fact, in December of 2018, a Ukrainian court ruled that Ukrainian officials had violated Ukrainian law by meddling in our election and that was reported in The New York Times," Kennedy added. "Russia was very aggressive and they’re much more sophisticated... But the fact that Russia was so aggressive does not exclude the fact that President Poroshenko actively worked for Secretary Clinton."
"Wait a minute, Senator Kennedy, you now have the president of Ukraine saying he worked for the Democratic nominee for president. Come on! You realize, the only other person selling this argument outside the United States is this man, Vladimir Putin," Chuck Todd asked. "You’ve done exactly what the Russian operation is trying to get American politicians to do. Are you at all concerned that you have been duped?"
"No, he said, just read the articles, Kennedy said.
Kennedy asked "what harm would it do" to allow President Trump to introduce evidence.
"Why doesn't he? He has been provided every opportunity to provide exculpatory evidence on any of this and they has chosen not to," Todd said.
"No, he hasn’t!" Kennedy responded. "Rounds one and two by Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Schiff are as rigged as a carnival ring toss and we both know that."