Ted Cruz becomes latest Republican to push debunked claim

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Sunday became the latest Republican to claim Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election ― a theory peddled by Russian officials and discredited by the U.S. intelligence community.

The Senate Judiciary Committee member, during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” attacked the media for believing “nobody else” interfered in the election besides Russia.

“Ukraine blatantly interfered in our election,” Cruz said.

He pointed to an op-ed published in August 2016 by Valeriy Chaly, the Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S. at the time, as evidence of election meddling.

In his op-ed, Chaly condemned comments Donald Trump made days earlier hinting that he supported the 2014 Russian invasion of Crimea, which is internationally recognized as a part of Ukraine. 

Republicans seeking to discredit the ongoing impeachment inquiry into Trump have held up Chaly’s op-ed as so-called evidence of Ukrainian corruption.

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia meddled in the 2016 election by hacking the Democratic National Committee’s servers and launching massive misinformation campaigns to benefit then-candidate Trump.

Fiona Hill, the former top Russian expert on the National Security Council, testified last month that the Kremlin is pushing the theory that Ukraine interfered in the election to distract from its own culpability.

Cruz’s comments come a week after Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), during an appearance on “Meet the Press,” claimed former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko “actively worked” for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“You realize the only person selling this argument outside the United States is ... Vladimir Putin?” host Chuck Todd asked the senator at the time. “You’ve done exactly what the Russian operation is trying to get American politicians to do.”

Cruz on Sunday defended his Republican colleague against Todd’s criticism and accused the media of “acting like they work for” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.).

“Last week, Chuck, you called Sen. John Kennedy basically a stooge for Putin,” he said. “The press needs to stop being ridiculous.”

Asked if he received a briefing from U.S. intelligence officials that explained how Russian agents are pushing the Ukraine interference theory, Cruz said he’s sat in on “multiple briefings” over the years.

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Republican U.S. presidential candidate Ted Cruz challenges rival Donald Trump (L) about releasing his tax returns during the debate sponsored by CNN for the 2016 Republican U.S. presidential candidates in Houston, Texas, February 25, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Stone
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks with supporters of fellow candidate Donald Trump during a campaign event at The Mill in Marion, Indiana, U.S., May 2, 2016. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump shows off the size of his hands as rivals Marco Rubio (L), Ted Cruz (2nd R) and John Kasich (R) look on at the start of the U.S. Republican presidential candidates debate in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., March 3, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young/File Photo
Republican U.S. presidential candidates Donald Trump (L) and Ted Cruz shake hands at the start of the Republican candidates debate sponsored by CNN at the University of Miami in Miami, Florida, March 10, 2016. REUTERS/Joe Skipper
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A delegate holds a sign that call for Ted Cruz delegates to support Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 20, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump (L) talks with rival candidate Ted Cruz during a commercial break in the midst of the Republican U.S. presidential candidates debate sponsored by CNN at the University of Miami in Miami, Florida March 10, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Jim Stryker, of San Francisco, holds a sign in protest of Republican U.S. presidential candidate Ted Cruz during the California GOP convention in Burlingame, California, U.S., April 30, 2016. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Ted Cruz gestures over at rival candidate Donald Trump (L) at the U.S. Republican presidential candidates debate in Detroit, Michigan, March 3, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young
Republican U.S. presidential candidates Donald Trump (L) and Ted Cruz (R) speak at the debate sponsored by CNN for the 2016 Republican U.S. presidential candidates in Houston, Texas, February 25, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Stone
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Former Republican U.S. presidential candidate and Texas Senator Ted Cruz speaks during the third session of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 20, 2016. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
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“Russia has tried to interfere in our elections,” he said. “China has tried to interfere in our elections. North Korea has tried to interfere in our elections. Ukraine has tried to interfere in our elections. This is not new. 2016 is not the first year they did. And they’re going to keep trying.”

Cruz defended Trump against the ongoing impeachment inquiry into his dealings with Ukraine, saying the president has the “authority” to investigate corruption. House Democratic leaders and several current and former State Department officials say Trump withheld U.S. military aid in an effort to get Ukraine to publicly commit to investigating political rival Joe Biden.

Trump appeared pleased with Cruz’s performance on Sunday, tweeting some of the senator’s quote from his interview with “Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd.”

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