'I was wrong': Sen. Kennedy takes back claim that Ukraine may have been behind 2016 election email hack




  • In Business
  • 2019-11-26 18:29:18Z
  • By USA TODAY
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\'I was wrong\': Sen. Kennedy takes back claim that Ukraine may have been behind 2016 election email hack  

Sen. John Kennedy retracted his comment that he did not know whether Ukraine or Russia was behind the cyberattack on the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign that resulted in the theft and publication of internal emails during the 2016 presidential campaign.

"I was wrong," the Louisiana Republican said Monday on CNN. "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."

This weekend, during a discussion on impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace asked Kennedy if he believed Russia or Ukraine was behind the 2016 computer hack.

"I don't know, nor do you," Kennedy replied.

Wallace said, "the entire intelligence community says it was Russia."

"Right, but it could also be Ukraine," Kennedy said. "I'm not saying that I know one way or the other."

On Monday night, Kennedy said he misheard and thought Wallace had suggested only Russia intervened in the 2016 election - not that only Russia had hacked the DNC. He said he realized his error after a review of the transcript from the show.

Kennedy's weekend comments sparked an uproar because only days earlier former Nation Security Council official Fiona Hill warned lawmakers that the claim that Ukraine was responsible for the email theft was propaganda being put out by Russian intelligence operatives.

"I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests," Hill said in the opening statement of her testimony before the House Intelligence Committee last week. Hill was speaking in an open hearing in the impeachment inquiry into allegations that Trump pressured Ukraine into opening investigations for his own political gain.

'Fierce, focused and fearless': Fiona Hill emerges as a principled voice in impeachment inquiry

More: Who are the 17 witnesses in the Trump impeachment inquiry and what have they said?

Kennedy's defense that he thought he was being asked if only Russia interfered in the 2016 election, implying both countries may have done it, echoes a statement made by Rep. Devin Nunes, the ranking Republican on the Intelligence Committee, in which he disputed Hill's assertion that Republicans were denying Russian meddling.

Nunes argued, "it is entirely possible for two separate nations to engage in election meddling at the same time."

Similarly, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said Sunday on CBS News "Face the Nation" that "there are plenty of ways to interfere in an election" when asked why Trump did not believe the conclusions of his own intelligence experts.

Nunes' claim that Ukraine also intervened is based on statements from Ukrainians who criticized Trump in the 2016 campaign for his apparently positive opinion of Russian President Vladimir Putin and a comment that he might recognize Russian's annexation of Crimea.

He has also accused Ukraine of intervention because a member of that country's parliament supplied evidence that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort had not disclosed large payments he had received from a Ukrainian political party.

But Trump's public statements have shown he was more interested in connecting Ukraine directly to the DNC hack, referring to a discredited theory circulated online.

In a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump said he believed Ukraine physically possessed the DNC server and referenced a company called CrowdStrike.

During an interview with "Fox & Friends" on Friday, Trump said Crowdstrike, "which is a company owned by a very wealthy Ukrainian," had the server.

But CrowdStrike is a publicly-traded company based in California. It was co-founded in 2011 by American George Kurtz and Russian-born American Dmitri Alperovitch. Neither of them is Ukrainian.

The company, which has also done work for the Republican National Committee, was hired by the DNC to determine who was behind the theft of the emails. CrowdStrike determined it was Russian intelligence operatives, and that conclusion was later confirmed by the FBI and other intelligence agencies.

More: What to know about CrowdStrike, the cybersecurity company mentioned in Trump's phone call with Zelensky

Tom Bossert, Trump's former homeland security adviser, told ABC News in September that the CrowdStrike theory is "not only a conspiracy theory, it is completely debunked."

He said he was "deeply frustrated" by people who repeat "that debunked theory to the president. It sticks in his mind when he hears it over and over again."

Contributing: Steve Reilly

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Sen. John Kennedy: 'I was wrong' to say Ukraine may have hacked DNC

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