Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) on Wednesday morning discarded the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia was responsible for a hack of the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 campaign, instead pushing a conspiracy theory favored by some conservatives that a DNC staffer was responsible for leaking emails.
Farenthold’s comments came after multiple conservative outlets promoted the baseless conspiracy theory that Seth Rich, a DNC staffer who was murdered last year in Washington, was central to the hack. A story in which a private investigator claimed Rich had been in contact with WikiLeaks prior to his death was pulled from Fox News’ website late Tuesday after being live for a full week, and network host Sean Hannity said he would stop pushing the conspiracy theory on air for the time being, in accordance with the Rich family’s wishes.
Farenthold insisted during an interview on CNN that the takeaway from former CIA Director John Brennan’s testimony Tuesday before Congress was that Brennan said he had not seen any evidence of collusion between Trump campaign officials and Russia. That interpretation of Brennan’s remarks echoed that of the White House.
CNN’s John Berman noted that Farenthold’s interpretation did not tell the whole story, though: Brennan said that he saw intelligence suggesting contact between Trump associates and Russian officials.
“There you go taking the worst possible spin,” Farenthold said in response.
The congressman added later that Brennan “was unable to point to any specific evidence, and I think that’s what we’re going to continue to see there.” He then rushed headlong into the conspiracy theory that the hack of the DNC was an inside job.
“And my fear is our constant focusing on the Russians is deflecting away for some other things that we need to be investigating in,” Farenthold said. “There’s still some question as to whether the intrusion of the DNC server was an insider job or whether or not it was the Russians.”
Berman asked Farenthold if he was referring to the report on Rich that Fox News retracted, to which Farenhold replied: “There’s stuff circulating on the internet.” He added that he would like federal officials to look at DNC computers.
CNN’s Poppy Harlow then jumped in to ask Farenthold if he thought it was “responsible” to float the conspiracy theory without evidence.
“I think the same is true with what the media is doing with Trump. We’re basing allegations on anonymous sources,” he replied.
Watch part of the interview below: