Lindsey Graham Publicly Rebukes Trump Conspiracy Theory

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This Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the recently released Justice Department inspector general’s report concluding that there’d been no effect from political bias on the course of the Russia investigation. Kicking off that hearing, committee chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) rambled on… and on… and on, including a delivery of a surprise rebuke of a conspiracy theory about Ukrainian interference in U.S. elections that’s lately gained a lot of traction among the president and his supporters. In short, he insisted that it’s the Russians (rather than Ukrainians) who led election meddling, although considering the sheer mass of GOP attempts at smoke and mirrors, that’s unlikely to mark any kind of party-wide shift.

Still, Graham said:

‘I want the American people to know there was an effort to affect Hillary Clinton’s campaign by foreign actors. The FBI picked up that effort, they briefed her about it, and they were able to stop it… It was the Russians, ladies and gentleman, who stole the Democratic National Committee emails, Podesta’s emails, and screwed around with Hillary Clinton. It wasn’t the Ukrainians. it was the Russians. And they’re coming after us again.’

First of all — Graham was wrong when he insisted that the FBI could have stopped Russian election interference, so bore some culpability in the chaos that followed the interference — or something. Going on from there, however, he is correct in noting that Russians led the 2016 election meddling — not the Ukrainians. Trump has even suggested that a supposedly Ukrainian company whisked a hacked Democratic email server away to Ukraine to, presumably, hide the true culprits behind the email hacks. However — the company that he has singled out is actually not even Ukrainian.

That’s not all, though. Prominent Republicans like Sens. John Kennedy (La.) and Ted Cruz (Texas) have consistently publicly claimed that Ukraine carried out some kind of sweeping election interference in 2016. Tellingly, the main supposed evidence that they have relied on for these claims includes a single, solitary opinion piece that a Ukrainian official published in opposition to Trump’s then-candidacy for president. As should go without saying — a single opinion piece is vastly different from a systematic, government-led hacking and misinformation campaign. In claiming otherwise, Republicans depict themselves as (possibly willingly?) ignorantly inept. For once — a rare once — Graham is correct.

It’s not indicative of any kind of broad willingness to accept anywhere near all of the facts of the situation, however. In a line that the Republican Party quickly touted far and wide on social media, Graham claimed (among many other things during his forty minute rant) that “what happened here is the system failed” and “people at the highest level of our government took the law into their own hands.” There’s just no evidence for that.

After his team reviewed more than one million documents and interviewed some one hundred people, Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz concluded that there was no evidence of bias affecting the overall Russia investigation. Where exactly does Graham intend to get evidence for his claims to the contrary?