Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., Monday walked back claims he made during an on-air interview that Ukrainians could have been behind the hack of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Clinton campaign during the 2016 presidential election cycle.
“I was wrong. The only evidence I have and I think it overwhelming is that it was Russia who tried to hack the DNC computer,” the senator told CNN’s Chris Cuomo regarding remarks he had made Sunday to Fox News host Chris Wallace.
After Wallace asked him who he thought was responsible for hacking the DNC and Clinton campaign and pilfering emails, Kennedy replied, “I don’t know. Nor do you. Nor do any of us.” When the news host pointed out that the whole intelligence community agreed the culprit was Russia, Kennedy said, “Right. But it could also be Ukraine. I’m not saying I know one way or the other.”
On Monday, though, Kennedy said he misheard Wallace, believing he was speaking about election interference. On the more narrow issue of the DNC and Clinton campaign hacks, the senator said, “I’ve seen no indication that Ukraine tried to do it.”
Kennedy’s initial remarks came after Fiona Hill, the former senior White House adviser on Russia, asked lawmakers during an impeachment hearing to stop spreading “a fictional narrative” about Ukraine meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and report revealed that senators and their aides recently were told by U.S. intelligence officials that the tale was part of a multiyear Russian disinformation campaign.
“The Russians have a particular vested interest in putting Ukraine, Ukrainian leaders in a very bad light,” Hill said. “Based on questions and statements I have heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country — and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did. This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.”
But that warning has not stopped many GOP lawmakers from repeating the narrative in defense of President Trump’s pressure on Ukraine to investigate political foe former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.