Russia, not Ukraine, intervened in 2016 election, top Trump official tells Menendez

Russia, not Ukraine, intervened in 2016 election, top Trump official tells Menendez


By:  Jonathan D. Salant
NJ.com

WASHINGTON — A top Trump administration official on Tuesday rejected Republican talking points and declared that Russia, nor Ukraine, interfered in the 2016 election.

In response to questioning from U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale disputed arguments from GOP lawmakers seeking to defend President Donald Trump from charges that he held up congressionally approved aid to Ukraine for political reasons.

“Did Russia interfere in 2016 election in favor of Donald Trump?” asked Menendez, D-N.J., the top Democrat on the committee.

“Yes, the intelligence community assessed that the Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016, aimed at our presidential election,” Hale said.

“Was the Kremlin’s interference in our 2016 election a hoax?” Menendez asked.

“No,” Hale said.

Menendez continued. “Are you aware of any evidence that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. election?”

“I am not,” Hale said.

Defenders of Trump, facing a House impeachment inquiry, have insisted that the president had legitimate reasons to ask Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate allegations that his country, not Russia, intervened in the 2016 elections.

Hale was just the latest administration official to reject that argument.

Testifying before the House Intelligence Committee last month, Dr. Fiona Hill, who had been the Russian expert on the National Security Council, called the allegation "a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.”

“I refuse to be part of an effort to legitimize an alternative narrative that the Ukrainian government is a U.S. adversary, and that Ukraine — not Russia — attacked us in 2016,” she said.

Menendez asked Hale whether U.S. national security “was made stronger or weaker if members of the administration or members of Congress insist on repeating debunked Russian lies.”

“It does not serve our interests,” Hale said.