Putin says 'thank God' as Republicans push his bogus conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in 2016

Associated PressRussian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a panel discussion at the Artificial Intelligence Journey (AIJ) forum in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019. (Sergey Guneyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday boasted that “no one is accusing” Russia of interfering in US elections anymore, adding: “now they’re accusing Ukraine.”
  • Putin’s comments come as Republicans involved in the impeachment inquiry repeatedly push a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 election.
  • Fiona Hill, Trump’s former top Russia adviser, in testimony before House investigators on Thursday slammed members of the committee who’ve peddled the “fictional narrative” on Ukraine.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
  • Follow along with our live coverage of the hearings here.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is gloating as Republicans continue to trumpet a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine – not Russia – interfered in the 2016 US presidential election.

“Thank God, no one is accusing us of interfering in the US elections anymore; now they’re accusing Ukraine,” Putin said in Moscow on Wednesday.

Amid the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, Republicans have repeatedly pushed the bogus conspiracy that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election.

The impeachment inquiry was catalyzed by a whistleblower complaint from a US intelligence official that zeroed in on a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

During the call, Trump urged Zelensky to launch investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden as well as the discredited conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in 2016.

Republicans have latched onto that conspiratorial narrative as they seek to defend Trump amid the mounting slew of damning allegations against him, which include making a White House meeting and the release of roughly $US400 million in security assistance contingent on investigations.

Rep. Devin Nunes, the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, continued to spread the baseless theory during Wednesday’s hearings.

“Once you understand that Ukrainian officials were cooperating directly with President Trump’s political opponents to undermine his candidacy, it’s easy to understand why the president would want to learn the full truth about these operations and why he would be sceptical of Ukraine,” Nunes stated.

‘This is a fictional narrative’

Fiona Hill, Trump’s former top Russia adviser, implored Republicans to stop spreading conspiracy theories on Ukraine and election interference in Thursday’s impeachment hearing.

“Some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did,” Hill said, adding, “This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services.”

Just one day after Putin boasted that no one is blaming Russia for election interference anymore, Hill said that the “result of all of these narratives” is “exactly what the Russian government was hoping for.”

She added: “If they seed misinformation, they seed doubt, they have everybody questioning the legitimacy of a presidential candidate, be it president Trump or potentially a president Clinton, that they would pit one side of our electorate against the other, that they would pit one party against the other.”

Along these lines, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, during an impeachment hearing earlier this week warned that the conspiracy theory being peddled by the GOP is “a Russian narrative that President [Vladimir] Putin has promoted.”

‘Russia is trying to breed distrust of … our fellow Americans’

The US intelligence community concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 election and did so to bolster Trump’s chances of winning. Intelligence officials have repeatedly warned that Russia is still working to meddle in the US electoral process.

Former special counsel Robert Mueller, who led an extensive investigation into Russian election interference that produced a 448-page report, has been emphatic about the ongoing threat in this regard.

In July, when congressional lawmakers asked Mueller whether he believed Russia would continue to interfere in US elections, he replied: “They’re doing it as we sit here.”

The Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee in October released a report on its own investigation into election interference.

Speaking on the report at the time, Sen. Richard Burr, the committee’s chairman, said: “Russia is waging an information warfare campaign against the US that didn’t start and didn’t end with the 2016 election.”

Burr added, “Their goal is broader: to sow societal discord and erode public confidence in the machinery of government. By flooding social media with false reports, conspiracy theories, and trolls, and by exploiting existing divisions, Russia is trying to breed distrust of our democratic institutions and our fellow Americans.”

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