Sen. Mitt Romney said Tuesday that it was Russian Federation - not Ukraine - that interfered in the 2016 presidential election, breaking with a number of fellow Republicans who contend, without evidence, that Ukraine may have also tried to meddle in the results.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Wednesday that he wanted to agree an exchange with Russia of all remaining prisoners when he meets Russian President Vladimir Putin at a summit in Paris next week. Menendez followed up, echoing the president's own language, and eliciting a swift "no" from Hale. "Clearly people in other countries watch our politics and pull for one candidate or another, but the nation that interfered in our elections and that made a concerted effort to influence elections and to hack elections was Russian Federation". Menendez asked Hale on Tuesday.
Despite privately expressing skepticism regarding the claims, a growing number of Republicans in Congress have made the strategic decision to publicly back the claim, believing it to be the most "politically expedient" Trump defense against impeachment, according to the Washington Examiner.
Menendez asked Hale whether US national security "was made stronger or weaker if members of the administration or members of Congress insist on repeating debunked Russian lies".
"That does not serve our interest", the diplomat responded.
Hale's series of responses is a departure from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who told reporters a week ago that he saw merit in investigating such allegations.
Witnesses in the impeachment inquiry have testified that Giuliani ran a parallel diplomatic track with Ukraine in coordination with Trump, bypassing regular channels.
Romney's comments underscored a divide among Republicans, some of whom are staunchly defending Trump and others who are persuaded by findings of the US intelligence community that Russian Federation was behind systemic attempts to meddle in the 2016 election.
When Fox News's Chris Wallace asked Sen.
That conclusion was borne out in special counsel Robert Mueller's almost two-year investigation into 2016 election interference, and the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee separately found no evidence that Ukraine waged a top-down interference campaign akin to the Kremlin's efforts to help Trump win in 2016.
Hale was just the latest administration official to reject that argument.