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.

“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.”