Pompeo suggests US has 'duty' to investigate debunked theory on Ukraine election interference

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoForeign Relations Democrat calls on Iran to release other American prisoners Documentary groups challenge Trump administration's vetting of immigrants' social media Iran releases American graduate student in prisoner swap MORE on Tuesday suggested that the United States has a “duty” to further probe a conspiracy theory promoted by President TrumpDonald John TrumpPence: It's not a "foregone conclusion" that lawmakers impeach Trump FBI identifies Pensacola shooter as Saudi Royal Saudi Air Force second lieutenant Trump calls Warren 'Pocahontas,' knocks wealth tax MORE alleging that Ukraine was responsible for the 2016 hack of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). 

Asked during a press conference whether the U.S. and Ukraine should investigate the theory, Pompeo responded by noting that the U.S. should investigate any information that indicates the nation's elections were interfered with. 

"Any time there is information that indicates that any country has messed with American elections, we not only have a right but a duty to make sure we chase that down," Pompeo said. 

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Pompeo then pointed to his previous stint as CIA director, stressing that he learned there were "many countries that were actively engaged in trying to undermine American democracy" during his time in the position. 

"So whatever nation it is that we have information that so much as suggests that there might have been interference or an effort to interfere in our elections, we have an obligation to make sure that the American people get to go to the ballot box, cast their ballots in a way that is unimpacted by these malevolent actors," he continued. 

The unsubstantiated claim that Ukraine may have been responsible for the hack of the DNC has gained considerable attention amid the House's impeachment inquiry into Trump's dealings with the foreign nation.

In a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump asked the new leader to look into matters related to CrowdStrike, an internet security company that initially examined the breach of the DNC servers in 2016. The request was an apparent reference to a conspiracy that casts doubt on the assessment that Russia was to blame for the hack of the DNC servers. 

CrowdStrike concluded in 2016 that Russian agents breached the DNC's network and stole emails that were later disseminated by WikiLeaks.

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The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Russia sought to interfere in the 2016 election to harm Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's candidacy and boost Trump. There is no evidence that suggests Ukraine engaged in election interference. 

Multiple former Trump administration officials have decried the accusation that Ukraine was responsible for the hack of the DNC. Tom Bossert, a former homeland security adviser in the Trump administration, said in late September that the allegation was a "completely debunked" conspiracy theory.

"At this point, I am deeply frustrated with what [Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiTrump: Giuliani to deliver report on Ukraine trip to Congress, Barr Trump denies report that he still uses personal cell phone for calls Giuliani draws attention with latest trip to Ukraine MORE] and the legal team are doing and repeating that debunked theory to the president," Bossert said, referring to Trump's personal attorney. "It sticks in his mind when he hears it over and over again, and for clarity let me just repeat that it has no validity."

Fiona Hill, a former top Russia analyst for the White House, also testified before Congress last week that the claim was a "fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves." 

Trump has meanwhile continued to push the theory. In an appearance on "Fox & Friends" following Hill's deposition, the president claimed that officials "gave the server to CrowdStrike, which is a company owned by a very wealthy Ukrainian." CrowdStrike is a U.S.-based company. 

Zelensky said in early October that Ukraine would "happily" open an investigation into alleged election interference.