“Meet The Press” host Chuck Todd on Sunday repeatedly challenged Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) over the unfounded allegation that Kyiv interfered in the 2016 election, arguing that Republicans were drawing a false equivalency between the actions of Russia and Ukraine during the campaign.
Todd made the comments after Cruz asserted on the NBC program that he believed there is “considerable evidence” that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election, echoing a line several GOP lawmakers have expressed in recent weeks. The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to boost President Trump‘s electoral prospects.
Intelligence officials have also reportedly briefed senators that Russia engaged in an effort to frame Kyiv for its election interference.
Todd appeared shocked by Cruz’s allegation, noting that it struck him as “odd,” given Trump’s past efforts to promote a false narrative about the Texas senator.
“You went through a primary campaign with this president. He launched a birtherism campaign against you. He went after your faith. He threatened to ‘spill the beans’ about your wife. Let me ask you this, is it not possible that this president is capable of creating a false narrative about somebody in order to help him politically,” Todd asked.
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) December 8, 2019
Cruz brushed off the question, arguing “that’s not what happened” with respect to Trump’s push for Ukraine to open an investigation into a conspiracy theory related to the hacking of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in 2016.
He then went on to accuse the media of playing a “game” and asking misleading questions.
“Of course Russia interfered in the election,” Cruz said. “But here’s the game the media is playing. Because Russia interfered, the media pretends nobody else did. Ukraine blatantly interfered in our election.”
Cruz cited a 2016 op-ed in The Hill from Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.S. Valeriy Chaly as evidence of meddling. Chaly’s opinion column had criticized Trump stating amid the campaign that he would recognize Crimea as a Russian territory. The U.S. and most of the international community has refused to recognize Russia’s 2014 annexation of the territory.
Todd quickly raised issues with comparison, saying that Cruz was stating that an op-ed was the same as Russia’s coordinated efforts to interfere in the presidential election.
Cruz’s remarks on Sunday fall in line with comments many Republican lawmakers have made amid the House impeachment inquiry into Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said on the same program last week that there was evidence that both Ukraine and Russia interfered in the election.
Todd responded by noting that the “only other person selling this argument outside the United States is this man, Vladimir Putin.”
Fiona Hill, a former top Russia analyst for the White House, testified last month that Ukraine meddling claims were part of a “fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.”