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Politics John Kennedy and the GOP alliance with Russian propaganda

20:15  02 december  2019
20:15  02 december  2019 Source:   washingtonpost.com

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Just how much do the GOP ’s Ukraine talking points echo Russia ’s? John Neely Kennedy (La.) spouted what U.S. officials have characterized as Russian propaganda about 2016 election interference. “Maybe they’re Ukrainians, Tatars, Jews — just with Russian citizenship,” Putin said.

John Neely Kennedy (La.) spouted what U.S. officials have characterized as Russian propaganda about 2016 election interference. “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd responded by telling Kennedy , “You’ve done exactly what the Russian operation is trying to get American politicians to do.”

Video by NBC News

On Sunday, for the second time in two weekends, Republican Sen. John Neely Kennedy (La.) spouted what U.S. officials have characterized as Russian propaganda about 2016 election interference. After suggesting Ukraine rather than Russia might have hacked the Democrats in 2016 — and then recanting — he took to another show this weekend and said that he believes “both Russia and Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election.”

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Since then, one of the GOP ’s top Putin water-carriers has been Louisiana Senator John Kennedy , who continues to advance disinformation that matches America has been blessed to have two political parties. The Democrats were largely right about civil rights, and the Republicans were largely right

Senator John Kennedy (file photo). Kennedy and six other Republican senators and one House member traveled to Russia from June 30 to July 4 Russian lawmaker Vyacheslav Nikonov described the meetings as "one of the easiest ones in my life" and claimed the subject of election meddling was

The comments came as a number of other top Republicans, including notably Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and House Intelligence Committee ranking Republican Devin Nunes (Calif.), have warmed to the conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered.

“Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd responded by telling Kennedy, “You’ve done exactly what the Russian operation is trying to get American politicians to do.” He added, "Are you at all concerned that you’ve been duped?” 

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Kennedy apparently wasn’t. But how true is that allegation? How much does what these Republicans are alleging about Ukrainian interference align with Kremlin talking points?

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John Kennedy (R-LA) when the GOP lawmaker said the ex-Ukrainian president “actively worked” for Hillary Clinton. The NBC News host went on to note that the main criticism Kennedy has faced in recent days is that he is conflating what Russia and Ukraine did during the 2016 election, stating that

Sen. John Kennedy told Russian government officials to "stop screwing with our election" on a congressional visit to Russia last week, the Louisiana Republican told CNN on Monday.

BOSSIER CITY, LOUISIANA - NOVEMBER 14: U.S. President Donald Trump introduces U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) during a rally at CenturyLink Center on November 14, 2019 in Bossier City, Louisiana. President Trump headlined the rally to support Louisiana Republican gubernatorial candidate Eddie Rispone, who is looking to unseat incumbent Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images) © 2019 Getty Images BOSSIER CITY, LOUISIANA - NOVEMBER 14: U.S. President Donald Trump introduces U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) during a rally at CenturyLink Center on November 14, 2019 in Bossier City, Louisiana. President Trump headlined the rally to support Louisiana Republican gubernatorial candidate Eddie Rispone, who is looking to unseat incumbent Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images) The first key point here is that the U.S. intelligence community hasn’t explicitly and publicly accused Russia of a disinformation campaign fingering Ukraine for election interference. It has said Russia waged an extensive campaign of its own and that it sows disinformation, but the allegation that Russia is pinning the blame on Ukraine is privately and widely acknowledged and has occasionally been testified to.

The chief example of such testimony came two weeks ago when the Russia expert Fiona Hill, a former White House national security official, detailed the “fictional narrative” of Ukrainian interference and urged Republicans not to fuel Russian propaganda efforts by promoting it. Hill said that certain Ukrainians favored Hillary Clinton, but that it was not at all comparable to what Russia did and that it wasn’t unusual for foreign politicians who assumed Clinton would win the 2016 presidential election.

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John Kennedy was asked a simple question by Fox News' Chris Wallace on Sunday: "Who do you believe was responsible for hacking the [Democratic National Committee] and Clinton campaign computers, their emails. John Berman fact-checks GOP lawmakers on Russia hack denial.

Russia loves influencing the GOP . Russian -leaning lawmakers in Ukraine have sponsored anti-gay legislation there. The FBI this week arrested Maria Butina, a Russian national, and said she and a Russian official “took steps to develop relationships with American politicians in order to establish

"It suits the Russian government very much if we are also looking at Ukraine as somehow a perpetrator of malign acts against us,” Hill said, urging everyone to “please not promote politically derivative falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests.”

What’s notable about Hill’s testimony — and what some have missed in the current back-and-forth — is that Russian President Vladimir Putin himself has said something similar about alleged Ukrainian “interference.” He said in an interview with Oliver Stone this summer that what Ukraine did didn’t rise to that level:

STONE: But now in the US there has been an investigation going on about Ukraine’s interference in the election. It seems that it was a very confusing situation, and [former Ukrainian president Petro] Poroshenko seems to have been very strongly pro-Clinton, anti-Trump.
PUTIN: Yes, this is no secret.
STONE: Do you think there was interference?
PUTIN: I do not think that this could be interpreted as interference by Ukraine. But it is perfectly obvious that Ukrainian oligarchs gave money to Trump’s opponents. I do not know whether they did this by themselves or with the knowledge of the authorities.

Putin also echoed Hill about Ukrainians saying nice things about Clinton and bad things about Donald Trump.

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The American University speech, titled "A Strategy of Peace", was a commencement address delivered by United States President John F. Kennedy at the American University in Washington, D.C., on Monday, June 10, 1963.

anti- Russian , pro-NATO-EU-US puppet allies with continued nuclear missile installation aimed directly at Russia (and Iran) as part of As soon as he was removed from power fleeing to Moscow and the US promptly installed its corrupt, neo-Nazi puppet regime as its neocon solution to its Russian

“They assumed Mrs. Clinton would win, and did everything to show loyalty to the future U.S. administration,” he said. “That is nothing special. They wanted the future president to have a good opinion of them.”

So right there is Putin — who, as Hill notes, has a real interest in blaming Ukraine for 2016 election interference — saying that it didn’t rise to the level of interference and that it was “nothing special.”

Even while he’s saying that, though, Putin is talking out of both sides of his mouth. He alleges that Ukrainian oligarchs were funding Trump’s opponents. And elsewhere, Putin and his allies and loyalists have toyed with — if not outright promoted — the idea that Ukraine did interfere.

Recently, as the Ukraine situation blew up, Putin needled the American politicians who are now consumed with this idea. “Thank God nobody is accusing us anymore of interfering in U.S. elections,” he said on Nov. 20. “Now they’re accusing Ukraine. Well, let them sort this out among themselves."

At other times, Putin has more explicitly pointed the finger at Ukraine. In February 2017, at a news conference with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Putin directly accused Ukrainian oligarchs of funding Clinton.

“As we all know, during the presidential campaign in the United States, the Ukrainian government adopted a unilateral position in favor of one candidate,” Putin said. “More than that, certain oligarchs, certainly with the approval of the political leadership, funded this candidate, or female candidate, to be more precise.”

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In a March 2018 interview with Megyn Kelly and NBC News, Putin suggested Ukrainians — or others — might have been responsible for the interference that the U.S. intelligence community blamed on Russia.

Maybe they’re Ukrainians, Tatars, Jews — just with Russian citizenship,” Putin said. “Even that needs to be checked.”

Russian state television has been even more direct in its accusations. During a special report this summer on the subject, reporter Anna Afanasyeva called for probing Ukraine.

“It’s time to start a new investigation into meddling by Ukraine, which from the start supported President Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton,” Afanasyeva said, according to NPR. “So-called Russia-gate is turning into Ukraine-gate.”

Such theories have also been pushed by pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine. Most notable among them is Oleg Voloshyn, a onetime spokesman for pro-Russian former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych who is tied to pro-Russian oligarch Dmitry Firtash.

“It was election interference, pure and simple,” Voloshyn told Time magazine last month. “When the liberal media tell me it’s a conspiracy theory, I say, ‘How do you know?’ There has been no investigation. Without an investigation, how can you say that Poroshenko did not help Hillary? I know that he did.”

At the very least, Russia is pointing in this general direction and letting American politicians connect the dots for themselves. And the idea that Ukraine interfered in 2016 is an attractive allegation for Republicans, given it’s a conspiracy theory Trump has promoted. If you say Ukraine didn’t interfere, it means Trump has been pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for a bogus investigation. Republicans have to at least pretend this idea is credible, or the foundation of Trump’s defense crumbles.

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But there is no question this is something that, as Hill has said, is promoting Russia’s interests — just as it was promoting Russia’s interests when Kennedy (briefly) and Trump (repeatedly) suggested Russia may not have actually interfered. They may not be echoing Russia’s talking points for the express purpose of helping Russia, but the practical effect is indistinguishable — which is why Hill said what she said.

Of course, Hill isn’t the only one to have said such things. The Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr (N.C.), warned about continuing Russian disinformation campaigns and “conspiracy theories” as recently as October.

“Russia is waging an information warfare campaign against the U.S. that didn’t start and didn’t end with the 2016 election," Burr said. He added, "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.”

The likes of Burr are pretty quiet these days, though, while the likes of Kennedy, Pompeo and Nunes are increasingly promoting the theories Burr and Hill warned about.

Kennedy’s efforts earned an attaboy from Trump on Monday morning. “Thank you to Great Republican @SenJohnKennedy for the job he did in representing both the Republican Party and myself against Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd on Meet the Depressed!” Trump tweeted.

It’s unlikely Trump was the only president who was pleased.

Trump allies, from Tucker Carlson to Sen. Kennedy, keep inadvertently defending Russia .
President Trump’s long-running embrace of Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, has been taken up recently by some of his staunchest Republican supporters, who have publicly sided with Moscow over Ukraine, an American ally, in comments they subsequently disavowed or dismissed as jokes. During a Sunday interview with Fox News’s Chris Wallace, Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., was asked whether he shared Trump’s belief that Ukraine, rather than Russia, hacked a computer server belonging to the Democratic National Committee in 2016 to interfere with the U.S. presidential election.“I don't know, nor do you,” Kennedy responded.

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