WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is the latest Senate Republican to echo a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election.
In a Sunday interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd, Cruz said there is “considerable evidence” that Ukraine, as well as Russia, interfered in the presidential election.
Cruz said the meddling gives President Donald Trump the “authority to investigate corruption" in Ukraine. His comments come as Democrats are leading an impeachment inquiry into what actions Trump took to push Ukraine to investigate his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, and whether those actions warrant impeachment.
“They are going to impeach not because they have the evidence, but because they hate the president,” Cruz said. “I think the American people know that this is a waste of time, this is Democrats putting on a circus.”
Cruz’ interview was immediately followed by praise from the president, who retweeted several stories and clips from the interview, concluding with a “Thank you Ted.”
....Biden on the board of the largest natural gas company in Ukraine, getting paid $83,000 a month, 10 times as much as a board member of @exxonmobil.” Thank you Ted. He also made a fortune from China and others, but zero before his father became V.P. @MeetThePress— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 8, 2019
State Department officials have reported to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that they are not aware of any evidence of Ukrainian interference. Fiona Hill, a former White House adviser on Russia, called it a “fictional narrative” fueled by Russian propaganda during her testimony before the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment hearings.
"These fictions are harmful even if they are deployed for purely domestic political purposes," Hill said, adding that Russian forces have put in millions of dollars to advance those narratives. "When we are consumed by partisan rancor, we cannot combat these external forces as they seek to divid us, degrade our institutions and destroy the faith of the American people and our democracy."
On Monday, lawyers for Democrats and Republicans are presenting their cases for and against impeachment to the House Judiciary Committee.
The House Judiciary Committee is expected to bring up articles of impeachment as early as this week. The full membership of the House is expected to vote and pass the articles of impeachment, then the Republican-controlled Senate will hold a trial that will decide if Trump is removed from office.
Democrats are unlikely to get the two-thirds vote needed by the Senate to remove Trump from office.
Other Republicans have also entertained the theory that Ukraine meddled in the election, notably Sen. John Kennedy from Louisiana. Cruz's counterpart in Texas, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn is taking a slightly more subdued approach to defending the president against impeachment.
"I don't think you have to agree with the way the president addressed this or even like the president to believe that it's not an impeachable offense," Cornyn told reporters recently.