Senate

Kennedy walks back comments on potential Ukraine interference: 'I was wrong'

Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) on Monday walked back comments in which he said Ukraine could have been responsible for the 2016 hack of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). 

But the Louisiana senator doubled down on the unsubstantiated theory that Ukraine may have tried to interfere in other ways, saying that there is “proven and unproven” evidence that both Ukraine and Russia meddled in the election.

Appearing on CNN, Kennedy acknowledged that he was "wrong" to say just a day prior that there weren't definitive answers on who hacked the DNC ahead of the 2016 election. Kennedy claimed he'd misheard a question from Fox News anchor Chris WallaceChristopher (Chris) WallaceRepublicans hammer Biden on infrastructure while administration defends plan GOP senator: Two sides 'far apart' on infrastructure compromise Biden economic adviser frames infrastructure plan as necessary investment MORE while appearing on "Fox News Sunday," causing him to answer incorrectly.

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"I was answering one of his questions, and he interjected with a statement and asked me to react to it. What I heard Chris say was only Russia tried to interfere in the election, and I answered the question. That’s not what he said," Kennedy said on CNN's "Cuomo Prime Time," noting that Wallace's question focused on DNC servers. 

"Chris is right. I was wrong," he said. "The only evidence I have, and I think it’s overwhelming, is that it was Russia who tried to hack the DNC computer. I’ve seen no indication that Ukraine tried to do it."

The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Russia sought to interfere in the election to harm Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMcConnell: Taliban could take over Afghanistan by 'the end of the year' Hillary Clinton: There must be a 'global reckoning' with disinformation Pelosi's archbishop calls for Communion to be withheld from public figures supporting abortion rights MORE's candidacy and help Trump.  

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Wallace noted the intelligence community's conclusion in Sunday's interview, but Kennedy pushed back, saying that "it could also be Ukraine." There is no evidence Ukraine had any role in the DNC hack.

The House in late September launched an impeachment inquiry into allegations that Trump pressured Ukraine to open investigations into former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden to meet with 6 GOP senators next week Arizona secretary of state gets security detail over death threats surrounding election audit On The Money: Five takeaways on a surprisingly poor jobs report | GOP targets jobless aid after lackluster April gain MORE, who is also a 2020 presidential candidate, and a conspiracy theory related to the 2016 election.  

In a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump asked the new Ukrainian leader to look into matters related to CrowdStrike, a U.S.-based internet security company that initially examined the breach of the DNC, according to a partial transcript released by the White House. 

The request was an apparent reference to a conspiracy theory that casts doubt on the assessment that Russians were responsible for hacking the DNC. 

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Tom Bossert, a former White House homeland security adviser, has called the allegation a "completely debunked" conspiracy theory.

Fiona Hill, a former top Russia analyst for the White House, also strongly disputed the idea that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election while testifying before Congress last week. 

“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,” Hill said in her opening statement.

"This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves," she said.