Sen. Tom Cotton (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 Trump’s attorney, Jay Sekulow, 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 Clinton.
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 Thune (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 Kennedy (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.”