Despite repeatedly being told otherwise, and being specifically told by Trump intelligence officials that the Russian government has worked to propagate the theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 elections, Republican officials continue to insist that Ukraine should be under scrutiny—not Russia. The latest example came Sunday when Sen. Ted Cruz, (R-Texas), told NBC’s Chuck Todd said that “the media” was trying to downplay Ukraine’s meddling by solely focusing on Russian meddling.
Todd asked Cruz whether he believed Ukraine meddled in 2016, and Cruz said, “I do, and I think there’s considerable evidence.” Cruz acknowledged that Russia did interfere in the 2016 election, but also insisted that “Ukraine blatantly interfered in our election.” As proof, Cruz cited an August 2016 op-ed written by Valeriy Chaly, then Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States, which slammed then-Republican nominee Donald Trump after he said that people in Crimea, “from what I’ve heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were.”
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) December 8, 2019
In that op-ed, Chaly wrote that Trump’s comments had “raised serious concerns in Kyiv and beyond Ukraine,” and that Trump’s proposal represented an “appeasement of an aggressor and support the violation of a sovereign country’s territorial integrity and another’s breach of international law.”
Underlying the Republican insistence that we should all be looking at Ukraine rather than Russia, is an effort to defend the president’s animus toward Ukraine, which is rooted in the president’s baseless conspiracy theory that the country’s officials “tried to take [him] down” by manufacturing a hack of the Democratic National Committee and blaming it Russia. His disdain for Ukraine was also clear when he tried to extort the Ukrainian government to announce an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden’s son in exchange for nearly $400 million in military aid, an episode at the heart of his looming impeachment.