GOP senator says idea that Ukraine interfered in US election is 'not a conspiracy theory'

GOP senator says idea that Ukraine interfered in US election is 'not a conspiracy theory'

Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonOn The Trail: Pence's knives come out Sunday shows preview: White House, congressional Democrats unable to breach stalemate over coronavirus relief The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Negotiators 'far apart' as talks yield little ahead of deadline MORE (R-Ark.) on Sunday insisted claims of Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election were “not a conspiracy theory” and accused those using the characterization of pushing a “Democratic talking point.”

“That’s not a conspiracy theory,” Cotton said when CBS’s Margaret Brennan noted that President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump suggests some states may 'pay nothing' as part of unemployment plan Trump denies White House asked about adding him to Mount Rushmore Trump, US face pivotal UN vote on Iran MORE’s attorney, Jay SekulowJay Alan SekulowDavis: Supreme Court decision is bad news for Trump, good news for Vance Trump complains of 'political prosecution' after SCOTUS rulings on financial records Appeals court rejects Trump effort to throw out emoluments case MORE, had promoted the claim during his defense of Trump during the Senate impeachment trial.

"You can read the president's brief. They make it very clear that you can accept that yes, Russia interfered in a systematic, organized, top-down fashion. I say that. I've been part of the Intelligence Committee that's been investigating it for years. You can also say that it's clear that some Ukrainian officials tried to influence the outcome of the election in 2016," he said.

Cotton, echoing other Republicans who have argued Ukraine also interfered in the election, pointed to public comments by Ukrainian officials disparaging then-candidate Trump and in favor of former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton labels Trump coronavirus executive actions a 'stunt' What Trump got wrong by pushing coal Trump is fighting the wrong war MORE.

The Arkansas senator conceded, however, these efforts were not comparable to Russia’s “systematic, top-down” interference in the election.

Numerous intelligence officials have said the notion of broader Ukrainian election interference is a conspiracy theory, with former National Security Council official Fiona Hill saying in testimony during the House’s impeachment inquiry last year that the Kremlin has heavily promoted the idea.

Brennan on Sunday also noted that Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneMeadows says he wants Trump nomination speech 'miles and miles away' from White House The Hill's 12:30 Report: White House, Dems debate coronavirus relief package The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Key 48 hours loom as negotiators push for relief deal MORE (R-S.D.), the number two Republican in the Senate, has also pushed back against claims of Ukrainian interference.

“Everything I’ve seen in the intelligence community and in our Intelligence Committee puts it squarely on Russia,” Thune said last year after Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) promoted the claim on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), one of Trump’s most vocal defenders in the Senate, also pushed back on the theory after Kennedy’s remarks, saying ““I think it’s always wrong to say things that can’t be proven. It was the Russians.”