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Opinion Opinions | What to do about the Kremlin’s propagandists

18:10  02 december  2019
18:10  02 december  2019 Source:   washingtonpost.com

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Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) once before walked back an assertion that maybe Ukraine was responsible for meddling in the 2016 election. That has not deterred him from repeating the Kremlin’s propaganda. Appearing on “Meet the Press” on Sunday, he was at it again. When moderator Chuck Todd asked him if he was not simply doing Russia’s dirty work, Kennedy responded, “I think both Russia and Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election. I think it’s been well documented in the Financial Times, in Politico, in the Economist, in the Washington Examiner, even on CBS, that the prime minister of Ukraine, the interior minister, the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States, the head of the Ukrainian Anti-Corruption League, all meddled in the election on social media and otherwise.”

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This is false, patently false. None of these outlets identified manipulation or interference in our election. Individual Ukrainians have publicly criticized President Trump, but Kennedy prefers to utter the Kremlin propaganda line. He acknowledged that he did not attend a briefing that Fiona Hill referenced “that actually this entire effort to frame Ukraine for the Russian meddling of 2016, of which you, you just made this case that they’ve done it, that actually this is an effort of Russia propaganda, that this is a Russian intelligence propaganda campaign in order to get people like you to say these things about Ukraine,” as Todd put it. An incredulous Todd soldiered on:

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TODD: They’re trying to frame Ukraine. You apparently were briefed about this in the United States Senate by intelligence officials. Are you at all concerned you’re doing Russian intelligence work here?
KENNEDY: I was not briefed. . . .
I wasn’t briefed. Dr. Hill is entitled to her opinion. But when the Economist magazine --
TODD: When does opinion, when does opinion become fact? Does 17 intelligence services saying it, does every Western intelligence ally saying Russia did this? I’m just sort of confused, at what point is it no longer an opinion for you?
KENNEDY: I don’t think it’s an opinion. I think it’s a fact.

Kennedy persisted in naming publications that did not confirm his claim of Ukrainian “interference.” Todd tried yet again:

TODD: I mean, my goodness, wait a minute, Senator Kennedy, you now have the president of Ukraine saying he actively worked for the Democratic nominee for president. I mean, now come on. I mean, I got to put up — you realize the only other person selling this argument outside the United States is this man, Vladimir Putin. This is what he said on November 20th: “Thank God nobody is accusing us anymore of interfering in U.S. elections. Now they’re accusing Ukraine. Well, let them sort this out among themselves.” You just accused a former president of Ukraine. You have done exactly what the Russian operation is trying to get American politicians to do. Are you at all concerned that you’ve been duped?
KENNEDY: No, because you -- just read the articles. . . .
TODD: Do you think there’s a difference in a country criticizing a presidential candidate who essentially endorsed another country’s invasion and annexation of a part of their country as equivalent to what Russia did with the DNC?

At that point Kennedy switched topics — to falsely claim Trump was not allowed to invite witnesses in the House Judiciary Committee’s upcoming impeachment hearings. (An offer is outstanding.)

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What to do about a senator who neglects his obligations to attend briefings, who perpetuates propaganda from an adversary of the United States and who deliberately misleads the public by conflating meddling/interference by an adversary and public criticism of a candidate?

Ultimately, it is up to the people of Louisiana to vote him out, but his fellow senators (are there no Republicans willing to stand up for objective reality?) need to condemn him roundly. The media, as Todd tried to do, must clarify that Kennedy is spouting disinformation. (Ideally the media should also disabuse the public of the notion that any individual of another country who criticizes a candidate is engaged in election interference.)

Kennedy is not alone in his obfuscation, but he is one of the most egregious examples. Frankly, it is for this reason — the need to set the public straight and to make a historical record — to proceed with impeachment. We look forward to the House Intelligence Committee’s report, due out for members Monday, which will begin the process of public education.

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Unfortunately, we have one political party that would just as soon be used as Kremlin propagandists if it means helping Trump. (They never seem bothered by the realization that Trump’s interests and the Kremlin’s are in lockstep.) The solution for that, and for reestablishing truth as a principle of self-governance, is at the ballot box in 2020: Vote them all out, every last one of them.

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