Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale testified last week at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on U.S. foreign policy towards Russia. Hale, the number three official in the State Department, was grilled by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey), ranking member on the Committee.

Hale testified that Ukraine did not interfere in the 2016 elections and reaffirmed that this theory was part of a campaign of disinformation against Ukraine by Russia. Hale stated that without any qualifications that Russia had intentionally interfered in the 2016 elections at the behest of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Menendez asked, “Secretary Hale, did Russia interfere in the 2016 election in favor of Donald Trump?”

“Yes, the intelligence community assessed that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at our presidential election,” Hale replied, reading from what appeared to be a prepared response.

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“Was the Kremlin’s interference in our 2016 election a hoax?” Menendez followed up, echoing the president’s own language, and eliciting a swift “no” from Hale.

“Are you aware of any evidence that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. election?” Menendez continued, to which Hale responded: “I am not.”

Menendez then quoted from the public impeachment testimony of Fiona Hill, the former top Russia expert on the White House National Security Council. Hill had described the theory pushed forward by Trump and Giuliani as a “fictional narrative that is being perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.”

“Do you have any reason to disagree with Dr. Hill?” Menendez asked Hale on Tuesday.

“I do not,” he replied.

After more back and forth, Menendez returned to the subject. “Is our national security made stronger or weaker when members of the administration or members of Congress insist on repeating debunked Russian lies?” he asked.

“That does not serve our interest,” Hale answered.

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.

“Any time 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,” he said during a press briefing in Foggy Bottom.