Chuck Todd challenges John Kennedy on Ukraine: Putin is only other person 'selling this argument'

NBC host Chuck ToddCharles (Chuck) David ToddGOP senator 'open' to impeachment witnesses 'within the scope' of articles Sunday shows - All eyes on Senate impeachment trial GOP senator, Chuck Todd spar over whether Lev Parnas should testify in Senate impeachment trial MORE on Sunday confronted Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) over the unfounded theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election, saying that Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinDon't assume Iran will be behind the next big cyber attack Vladimir Putin will not be president for life but he is sure to have power Countries reach agreement in Berlin on Libya cease-fire push, arms embargo MORE is the only other person outside the U.S. promulgating this argument. 

Todd made the remarks on "Meet The Press" while pushing back against Kennedy's assertion that both Russia and Ukraine meddled in the latest U.S. presidential election. 

Todd strongly disputed the accusations, noting that the U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to boost President TrumpDonald John TrumpSanders apologizes to Biden for supporter's op-ed Jayapal: 'We will end up with another Trump' if the US doesn't elect progressive Democrats: McConnell impeachment trial rules a 'cover up,' 'national disgrace' MORE and harm Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocratic debates are magnet for lobbyists NYT editorial board endorses Warren, Klobuchar for Democratic nomination for president Sanders v. Warren is just for insiders MORE. There is no evidence to suggest Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election. 

Kennedy claimed that reporting in outlets such as Politico and The Economist indicated that the former Ukrainian president favored Clinton over Trump. 

"You should read the articles, Chuck. They’re very well documented," Kennedy said, apparently referencing reports about former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's administration.

"The fact that Russia was so aggressive does not exclude the fact that President Poroshenko actively worked for Secretary Clinton," he later added, prompting Todd to quickly express dismay over the remark. It is unclear which report he was referencing when making the claim. 

ADVERTISEMENT

"My goodness. Wait a minute, Sen. Kennedy. You now have the president of Ukraine saying he actively worked for the Democratic nominee for president. I mean, now come on," Todd said. "You realize the only other person selling this argument outside the United States is is this man, Vladimir Putin."

Todd went on to accuse Kennedy of doing "exactly what the Russian operation is trying to get American politicians to do."

"Are you at all concerned that you’ve been duped?" he asked. 

"No, just read the articles," Kennedy said. 

Speaking at an economic forum in Russia last month, Putin said that he was thankful "internal political battles" were putting an end to accusations of Russian interference in the U.S. 

"We see what is going on there in the U.S. now," Putin said. "Thank God nobody is accusing us anymore of interfering in the U.S. elections. Now they’re accusing Ukraine."

The conspiracy theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election has gained increased attention as the House probes Trump's dealings with Ukraine.

During 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. 

Multiple former administration officials have denounced the theories that Ukraine, not Russia, hacked the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and interfered in the 2016 election. Tom Bossert, a former homeland security adviser in the Trump administration, said in late September that the allegation was a "completely debunked" conspiracy theory.

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

Kennedy last week suggested that there was still a possibility that Ukraine was responsible for the DNC hack. He walked back those comments days later but has continued to insist Ukraine interfered in other ways. 

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