WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of 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.
“Of course Russia interfered in our election,” Cruz said. “But here’s the game the media is playing: Because Russia interfered, the media pretends nobody else did. Ukraine blatantly interfered in our 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, including a “Thank you Ted.”
State Department officials have reported to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that they are unaware of 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 divide 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 in 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, who previously said in an interview that "there's no question in my mind Ukraine did try to influence the election."
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-North Carolina, previously advanced the theory but later clarified that he didn’t believe Ukraine influenced the election the same way Russia did. U.S. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Marco Rubio, R-Florida, both members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said they believe the theory to be false. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has avoided commenting on the subject. Even Trump's ally Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, has told media that he rejects the theory that Ukraine interfered.
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.