A week after Meet the Press host Chuck Todd accused Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) of pushing Russian propaganda on Ukraine, the NBC News anchor forcefully confronted GOP Sen. Ted Cruz over the Texas lawmaker’s belief that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election.
With the House of Representatives heading towards an impeachment vote, Cruz argued on Sunday that Democrats haven’t yet proven that the president violated any laws, insisting that Trump was just concerned about “investigating corruption” when he pressured Ukraine to announce an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden.
“What I don’t understand is why do you believe that if an American is committing corruption we should have a foreign government to announce an investigation,” Todd wondered aloud. “Is that appropriate or do you go to American authorities?”
“So, I believe any president, any Justice Department has the authority to investigate corruption,” Crus responded. “In this case, there was serious evidence on the face of corruption. The reason Hunter Biden got that position is because his daddy was vice president.”
Todd, meanwhile, pressed forward and asked the conservative senator whether or not he believed that Ukraine meddled in the election—a talking point that has gained more traction among Republicans lately.
“I do. And I think there is considerable evidence,” Cruz replied.
“You do?” Todd shot back, expressing shock. “You do?!”
Earlier this fall, the intelligence community briefed senators and their aides that Russia has spent the past year attempting to frame Ukraine for Russia’s 2016 election interference. During an impeachment hearing last month, former White House Russia expert Fiona Hill also criticized Republicans for pushing a “fictional narrative” on Ukraine meddling, adding that it likely came from a Russian disinformation campaign.
Todd went on to remind Cruz about the president’s own smear campaign against him during the 2016 GOP presidential primary when they were both fighting for the Republican nomination.
“Senator, this sort of strikes me as odd because you went through a primary campaign with this president,” the Meet the Press anchor noted. “He launched a birtherism campaign against you. He went after your faith; he threatened to quote ‘spill the beans’ about your wife about something. He pushed a National Enquirer story, which we now know he had a real relationship with the editors.”
“I appreciate you dragging up all that garbage, that’s very kind of you,” Cruz snarked back.
“Let me ask you this,” Todd continued. “Is it not possible that this president is capable of creating a false narrative about somebody in order to help him politically?”
Cruz laughed off Todd’s questions, asserting “that’s not what happened” and that the transcript of Trump’s July phone call with the Ukrainian president shows nothing wrong. He then claimed that while he does believe Russia interfered in the last election he doesn’t think that means Ukraine didn’t.
The two would go back-and-forth over the evidence that the Ukraine government interfered in the election, with Cruz pointing to a 2016 op-ed by the Ukrainian ambassador criticizing Trump’s stance on Russian aggression against Ukraine as proof.
“That’s the difference? What you are saying—you are saying a pickpocket, which essentially is a Hill op-ed, compared to Bernie Madoff and Vladimir Putin,” Todd snapped back. “You are trying to equate—make them both seem equal. I don’t understand that.”