White House

Romney Contests Trump’s Ukraine Election-Meddling Narrative: ‘I Saw No Evidence’

Mitt Romney speaks to members of the media after their meeting with Donald Trump (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Senator Mitt Romney of Utah broke with his Republican colleagues on Tuesday, telling reporters that, based on testimony from American officials, he does not believe there is evidence of Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election.

Romney’s comments come after U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale, the No. 3 State Department official, told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that he was not aware of any Ukraine meddling in the 2016 election.

“I saw no evidence from our intelligence community nor from our representatives today from the Department of State that there is any evidence of any kind that suggests Ukraine interfered in our elections,” Romney said Tuesday. He added that “we have ample evidence that Russia interfered in our elections.”

During his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump asked his Ukrainian counterpart “to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine.” He went on to specify that he wanted a probe into the so-called “Crowdstrike theory,” which holds that Ukrainian hackers posed as Russians while interfering in the 2016 election in order to sow discord between the two powers.

“They say Crowdstrike … I guess you have one of your wealthy people … The server, they say Ukraine has it,” Trump said according to the transcript of the call. In September the Justice Department confirmed that the probe led by U.S. Attorney John Durham was exploring Ukrainian election interference.

During House testimony in the impeachment inquiry, Republicans repeatedly cited Trump’s concern over Ukrainian corruption as reasonable in his decision to delay military aid to the country, a position a new House-Republican report reinforces.

“President Trump has a deep-seated, genuine, and reasonable skepticism of Ukraine due to its history of pervasive corruption,” the report — released Monday — states.

Republicans have also referenced a January 2017 article from Politico titled “Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump backfire,” which cites examples of Ukrainian officials attempting to sabotage the Trump campaign.

State Department officials and Democrats have pushed back on the narrative, emphasizing Trump’s mention of the “Crowdstrike” theory, which they argue amounts to Russian propaganda.

In her testimony last month, former National Security Council staffer Fiona Hill called Ukrainian 2016 election interference “a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.”

“The unfortunate truth is that Russia was the foreign power that systematically attacked our democratic institutions in 2016,” Hill’s opening statement reads. “This is the public conclusion of our intelligence agencies, confirmed in bipartisan Congressional reports. It is beyond dispute, even if some of the underlying details must remain classified.”

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