Trump continues to push debunked Ukraine conspiracy theory

Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian
Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian

(WASHINGTON) — The day after a former White House Russia expert warned about the danger of propagating a “fictional narrative” that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 presidential election, President Donald Trump went on national TV Friday and pushed that very conspiracy theory.

“A lot of it, they say, had to do they say had to with Ukraine. It is very interesting, it is very interesting, they have the server from the DNC,” the president said in a telephone interview on Fox and Friends, espousing a debunked narrative that Ukraine was involved in a hack of the Democratic National Committee’s network in 2016.

“You know, the FBI’s never gotten that server. Why did they give it to a Ukrainian company?” Trump continued.

“Are you sure they did that? Are you sure they gave it to Ukraine?” anchor Steve Doocey asked.

“Well, that is what the word is, and that is what I asked in my call as you know,” Trump said, referring to his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy at the center of the House impeachment inquiry into whether the president held up military aid to Ukraine unless and until the country agreed to announce investigations into the president’s political rivals.

The president’s continued fixation on the debunked theory came the morning after former National Security Council official Fiona Hill, during her public testimony to impeachment investigators, warned that advancing the false narrative only plays into Russia’s hands.

“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. This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves,” Hill said. “I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests.”

President Trump also continued to deny in his nearly-hour-long interview with Fox that there was a “quid pro quo” with Ukraine to secure an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.

“It’s absolutely not true,” Trump said when asked about testimony from his Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland that there was such a “quid pro quo,”

Trump maintained his push for investigations was related to concerns about corruption in Ukraine generally and that the military aid was withheld because, he claimed, other European allies weren’t paying their fair share to support Ukraine.

Even so, he then went on to rail against Joe Biden as corrupt.

“Now, then you have to say, when you see Joe Biden, Joe Biden is corrupt,” Trump said. “I will tell you this about Joe Biden, I never said it specifically on him, but I watched Joe Biden with the prosecutor, who a lot of people said was a great prosecutor and they took him off.”

The president is again alleging an unproven theory that Joe Biden, as vice president under President Barack Obama, pushed Ukraine to dismiss its former top prosecutor Viktor Shokin because he was looking into Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company where Biden’s son sat on the firm’s board.

But Biden’s push for Shokin’s dismissal also had the support of multiple Western allies, as Shokin was widely viewed as corrupt at the time.

The president also continued to distance himself from Sondland as someone he “hardly knows” and was dismissive of his actions: “He was the European Union ambassador and all of a sudden he is working on this, asking about that.”

Sondland testified to multiple direct interactions with the president and said that he was acting on the president’s orders in working with the president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to secure an announcement fro Ukraine about investigations in exchange for a White House meeting.

The president also accused David Holmes, a diplomat at the U.S. embassy in Ukraine, of making up his sworn public testimony he gave alongside Hill Thursday regarding a phone call Holmes said he overhead between Trump and Sondland during which Holmes said he could hear Trump asking Sondland about “investigations.” Trump said “that was a total phony deal.”

“How about the guy with the telephone? I guarantee you that never took place,” Trump said. “I’ve been watching guys 40 years make phone calls and I can’t hear, you could be two feet away I can’t hear people making calls.”

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