In late September, when the White House released a call summary of Donald Trump's phone meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the public learned of the kind of "favors" the Republican sought from his counterpart. Trump didn't just want Kyiv to go after one of his domestic rivals; he also brought a crackpot conspiracy theory.
"This whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike," the call summary quotes Trump saying. "I guess you have one of your wealthy people... The server, they say Ukraine has it. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation."
A week later, as the New York Times reported, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended Trump's request to Zelensky, despite the fact that the Crowdstrike conspiracy theory is both ridiculous and discredited. As the report from early October explained, Pompeo said it was "the 'duty' of the Trump administration to pursue whether efforts to tamper in the United States election were rooted in Ukraine, even though the American intelligence agencies have long concluded Russia was to blame."
Nearly two months later, as The Daily Beast noted, the secretary of State's line hasn't improved.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggested in a Tuesday press conference that a conspiracy theory that Ukraine and not Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee in 2016 is a legitimate line of inquiry.
Asked if the U.S. and Ukraine should investigate whether "Ukraine and not Russia hacked the DNC," Pompeo, who previously served as CIA director, replied: "Anytime there is information that indicates that any country has messed with American elections, we not only have a right but a duty to make sure we chase that down."
It's worth emphasizing that Pompeo did not explicitly endorse the unhinged conspiracy theory or accuse Ukraine, by name, of any wrongdoing.
But the Kansas Republican's rhetoric seemed to leave open the possibility that the discredited conspiracy theory has merit, enough to warrant official examination. Pompeo could've used this opportunity to make clear that the U.S. government holds Russia responsible for Russia's attack on our elections -- but he didn't.