Ukraine didn't interfere in 2016, Trump officials testified

Source: Politico | November 8, 2019 | Natasha Bertrand and Andrew Desiderio

Two top officials who served on President Donald Trump’s National Security Council staff testified that they had seen no evidence that the Ukraine government interfered in the 2016 election, contradicting a claim the president has made in public and private.

The former officials, Fiona Hill and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, were responding to questions from House impeachment investigators, who released transcripts of their depositions on Friday.

The testimony undercuts a conspiracy theory that has been pushed by Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, as he sought to upend the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia sought to help Trump defeat Hillary Clinton in 2016.

According to Giuliani, Ukrainian officials conspired with the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee to help boost the Democratic nominee’s campaign and damage Trump’s candidacy. No evidence has emerged to support that idea.

In his testimony, Vindman said there was no “factual basis” for such claims. “I am, frankly, unaware of any authoritative basis for Ukranian interference in 2016 elections, based on my knowledge,” he said.

Hill went further, telling lawmakers she had no reason to believe that the intelligence community’s assessment was wrong or that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election, though she clarified that she was referring only to the government in Kyiv.

Hill appeared frustrated by repeated questions from the Republicans’ lead counsel about a POLITICO article from January 2017, which said a Ukrainian-American working for the DNC had met up with top officials at the Ukrainian embassy to discuss Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s ties to Russia.

“It is a fiction that the Ukrainian government was launching an effort to upend our election, upend our election to mess with our Democratic systems,” Hill testified.

Asked whether a Ukrainian-American might have been interested in “injecting” negative information about Manafort into the press, Hill retorted that the same could be said of the Ukrainian-American operatives Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two Giuliani associates “who were also trying to subvert our democracy and who managed to get one of our ambassadors sacked.”

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