Boris Johnson makes this claim when questioned about the delayed publication of a parliamentary report on Russian involvement in the 2016 referendum. In a campaign stop in Teeside, he used this argument twice in response to questions by the public.
As Channel 4 FactCheck reported, Johnson — then foreign secretary — stated in a joint press conference on 22 December 2017 with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that he had seen evidence of Russian interference in UK democracy.
He was responding to a comment by Lavrov that “the person sitting next to me, Boris Johnson, said recently that he had no evidence that Russia meddled in the referendum over Britain’s exit from the EU.”
Johnson immediately responded that “I think it’s very important that you should recognise that Russian attempts to interfere in our elections, our referendum, whatever they may have been, have not been successful.”
Two years later, he used exactly the same form of words — “no evidence that” — which Lavrov had used and which in 2017 he felt the need to correct.
Johnson is, at the least, contradicting himself. The publication of the House of Commons Intelligence and Security Committee’s report on Russia’s influence on British politics might provide answers. But Johnson, who received the report on 17 October, has, unusually, refused to publish it.
Until it is released, his own contradictory narrative will raise questions about his motives for not publishing the report.