David Hale, the third-ranking State Department official who testified recently as part of House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, told senators on Tuesday that he has not seen any evidence to support GOP claims that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election.
Hale, the under secretary of State for political affairs, also told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he did not have any reason to disagree with Fiona Hill, a former top White House Russia expert who told House lawmakers last month that Russian security services were propagating a “fictional narrative” of Ukraine interference.
“I am not,” Hale responded after Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) asked him whether he was aware of any evidence that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election.
And when asked about the impact of members of Congress or the Trump administration insisting on repeating such claims, Hale replied: “That does not serve our interest.”
Hale’s comments come as Trump and his Republican allies continue to repeat unfounded claims that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election.
In particular, some of the president’s defenders have embraced claims that Ukraine sought to dig up damaging information about Trump campaign officials by reaching out to Alexandra Chalupa, a former Democratic National Committee (DNC) contractor.
A Politico article in 2017 claimed that Chalupa, who left the DNC in 2016, continued to research ties between former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, including asking Ukrainian Embassy officials for help. She then turned over some of her findings to officials at the DNC and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign, the story said.
But Chalupa later denied how her work was framed in the story, and it also remains unclear what role the embassy officials played. Additionally, both DNC and former Clinton campaign officials have denied receiving information from Chalupa, according to reports.
Hill, during her public testimony on Nov. 21, also batted down this narrative.
“In the course of this investigation, I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests,” Hill said, warning that the “Russian government’s goal is to weaken our country.
“And as I told this Committee last month, I refuse to be part of an effort to legitimize an alternate narrative that the Ukrainian government is a U.S. adversary, and that Ukraine — not Russia — attacked us in 2016,” she added.
Shortly after Hill testified, U.S. intelligence officials reportedly briefed senators and their aides that Russia was behind a years-long campaign in which they sought to cast blame on Kyiv for interfering in the 2016 election, in an apparent effort to divert scrutiny for carrying out an influence campaign and hacking during the presidential race.
An intelligence community assessment — as well as the House and Senate Intelligence panels — concluded that Russia was behind the 2016 meddling.
Politico also reported this week that, in 2017, the Senate Intelligence Committee found no evidence that Ukraine carried out a systematic effort to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
Still, allies of the president have continued to press the idea that Ukraine, in addition to Russia, may have interfered.
“Russia was very aggressive and they’re much more sophisticated, but the fact that Russia was so aggressive does not exclude the fact that President Poroshenko actively worked for Secretary Clinton,” Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) told NBC News in a Sunday interview, referring to former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
Trump has also pushed a debunked conspiracy theory about CrowdStrike, a cybersecurity firm that led the investigation into the DNC server following the Russian-led hacking.
And while most of the president’s allies have distanced themselves from the CrowdStrike claim, the president has continued to assert that the DNC turned over its server to a “Ukrainian company,” which he suggests framed Russia for the attack when it should’ve been conducting forensics of the cyber intrusion. But the company was co-founded by a Russian, and experts have dismissed such claims.
“They gave the server to CrowdStrike,” Trump said during a “Fox & Friends” interview one day after Hill testified publicly. “That’s what the word is.”