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OpinionColumnistsDan Janison

D.C. Republicans refuse to quit deflecting evidence of Russian connivance

Longtime GOP consultant Paul Manafort in June 2019.

Longtime GOP consultant Paul Manafort in June 2019. Credit: Getty Images/Yana Paskova

New information keeps shattering the GOP's repeated denials of established fact. But that doesn’t mean Republicans on the national stage are ready to give up spurious assertions about who cheats and tries to tamper with elections.

In a House Intelligence Committee hearing Thursday on global threats, Rep. Devin Nunes steered questioning toward GOP narratives involving the origins of the investigation of Russians' meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.

Nunes (R-Calif.) took time to ask officials about an old memo by a political consultant and the surveillance warrant for former President Donald Trump's associate Carter Page, also issued years ago. Nunes accused the FBI of spying on Republicans, a "hallmark of a banana republic."

At the same time, the GOP's old "no-collusion-with-Russia" contention took another blow. The federal government said officially for the first time that Konstantin Kilimnik, a former associate of ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, gave Kremlin agents "sensitive information on polling and campaign strategy."

The Treasury Department said in a statement Thursday: "During the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign, Kilimnik provided the Russian Intelligence Services with sensitive information on polling and campaign strategy."

Also, "Kilimnik sought to promote the narrative that Ukraine, not Russia, had interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election," Treasury said. "In 2018, Kilimnik was indicted on charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice regarding unregistered lobbying work."

What's worse for the denial narrative is that officials said Kilimnik also sought to help former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, an ex-Manafort client, return to power in that country.

For month after month under Trump, the ex-president's allies suggested that facts showing Ukraine, not Russia, meddled in the 2016 election were just on the verge of coming out.

Trump's false assertions of ballot fraud, before and after the 2020 election, have followed a similar course: Promised GOP substantiation never surfaced.

Another increment in that story emerged last week when Georgia's Republican lieutenant governor said Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani's lies about the state's election process led to the state's new voting laws.

The U.S. announced Thursday it was expelling 10 Russian diplomats and imposing sanctions against dozens of companies and people over alleged interference in last year's presidential election and the hacking of American government agencies.

At the White House, Biden defended the sanctions he announced as a proportionate response to the cyberattacks and interference in two presidential elections. But he also said: "Now is the time to de-escalate." That repeats a message from the readout of his phone conversation earlier in the week with Russia President Vladimir Putin.