Late Monday evening, a Senate Intelligence Committee report that was released found that there was no election interference by Ukraine in the 2016 presidential election, a finding that contradicts a conspiracy theory promulgated by President Donald Trump and his allies.
The allegations by Trump were put forward as a defense to his insistence of investigations initiated within Ukraine, which he said justified a hold of hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Kyiv but that his critics maintain created the appearance of a quid pro quo bribery scheme. According to testimony from several current and former executive department officials, Trump wanted Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to conduct investigations into Joe and Hunter Biden, as well as into the Democratic National Committee, in order to help Trump politically in 2020.
The Intelligence Committee’s findings create a problem for Trump, as it appears that the conspiracy theory he used to justify his insistence on those investigations has been thoroughly debunked. The Senate Intelligence Committee is a Republican-led group of lawmakers, too, composing of many of Trump’s supporters — in other words, Trump cannot chalk this committee’s findings up to being authored by Democrats opposed to him, or “Never Trumpers” who are against his re-election.
The committee took many steps to reach its conclusion, CNN reported, including interviewing Alexandra Chalupa, a former aide with the Democratic National Committee who was said to have been involved in the alleged interference campaign between Democrats and Ukraine, according to the conspiracy theory. Chalupa was interviewed by the committee in 2017, and it appears that the allegations against her were unfounded.
"Some Republican senators recently questioned whether Kyiv tried to sabotage Donald Trump’s campaign in 2016. But the GOP-led Intelligence Committee looked into the theory, and found scant evidence to support it."https://t.co/YcVa1ee0VC
— Rachel Maddow MSNBC (@maddow) December 2, 2019
Intelligence Committee chair Sen. Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) said that while he believed Ukraine officials voiced support for Trump’s 2016 opponent, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, “I don’t think anybody interfered in the same way Russia did.”
That goes against what several defenders of Trump have been saying in recent weeks. “Russia was very aggressive and they’re much more sophisticated, but the fact that Russia was so aggressive does not exclude the fact that President Poroshenko actively worked for Secretary Clinton,” Sen. John Kennedy claimed on Sunday, per Politico — a notion that now should be put to rest by the committee’s findings.
Comparisons of Russia’s interferences in 2016 to Ukraine’s alleged preferences are “not even in the same universe,” Intelligence Committee member Sen. Marco Rubio said, following the report’s release — a notion that most in the intelligence community had already been vocal about on a number of occasions.
According to NPR, Russia began a disinformation campaign, starting in 2014, to produce social media accounts that could influence and confuse American voters. That social media campaign, by 2016, amassed a high enough following to reach hundreds of millions of users.
Russia also tried to hack into local governments’ voting systems, doing so successfully in at least one Florida county during the election, according to the Mueller report. It also successfully hacked DNC servers and emails from Clinton’s campaign, disseminating them to Wikileaks, which in turn published them online.