Rejecting assertions that she was a tool of the Kremlin, Green Party leader Jill Stein told supporters Wednesday night that her independent political cause is being targeted as part of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections, as she denied playing any role in helping Moscow meddle in the race for the White House, expressing doubts about investigative claims that Moscow was behind hacks of Democratic Party emails and documents.
"Facts don't matter too much in this Russia-gate thing," Stein said. "It's all about smear, smears."
In a Facebook live video presentation for supporters on Wednesday evening, Stein said it was 'outrageous' to say she played any role in Russia's 2016 efforts to meddle in the U.S. elections, though she did address one of the more curious questions regarding that investigation, as to why she was in Moscow in December 2015 for a dinner - which featured Russian leader Vladimir Putin - also sitting at the same table with future Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
"It became an issue only after the DNC email scandal," Stein said of the dinner, though she did not directly say whether she had any discussions while in Moscow about the 2016 elections with either Flynn, Putin, or some of the Russian leader's aides.
In her video statement, Stein questioned whether Russia was really at fault for the email hacks of the Democratic National Committee, openly questioning the conclusions of U.S. Intelligence, and a recently issued House GOP intelligence report, which said Moscow was clearly to blame for the hacks and the publication of the emails on the internet.
"It's not proven," Stein declared.
"The evidence of that, which is essentially cyber fingerprints, is considered not reliable," she added, repeatedly blaming Democrats for dragging her Russia trip into the investigation, labeling it a 'smear campaign.'
"The whole smear was launched only after the Democrats needed to change the subject," Stein said of the Russia probe.
Stein then addressed the Green Party's refusal to fully cooperate with the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation of Russian election meddling, saying she had decided not to turn over all documents requested by the panel.
"We turned over all of our communications with the Russian government, which were basically about the logistics of my visit," Stein said, referring to the 2015 dinner with Putin and others.
"It's not as though there were some secret, new policies that we were cooking up," Stein said, as she explained that other Senate requests for internal policy documents related to the Russian trip were rejected.
"The Constitution says that's private, as part of our First Amendment rights," Stein added, as she accused the news media of trying to wrongly drag her into the Russia probe.
"The emails weren't released and the whole DNC scandal hadn't happened," Stein noted about the timing of her December 2015 meeting with Putin, Flynn and others in Moscow.
Stein did not directly address who paid for her trip to Moscow; Flynn's trip was paid for by the sponsor of the event, the Kremlin-backed TV network Russia Today.
Flynn, who headed the Defense Intelligence Agency in the Obama Administration, did not reveal those financial details to investigators a few months after the trip, when the Pentagon renewed his top security clearances.
Stein said the Russia investigation was threatening to overshadow her calls for dramatic election reforms in the U.S., as she again called for the use of paper ballots, an end to voter suppression, and more security for election processes.
"This is not rocket science," she said.