'Putin told me': Ex-White House officials reportedly said Trump's view of Ukraine was poisoned by the Russian president
Though the Ukraine scandal suddenly burst on to the scene of American politics in September and quickly led to President Donald Trump's impeachment this week, its origins have been festering for much longer, a new report from the Washington Post found on Thursday.
Multiple former White House officials told the Post that Trump's negative view of Ukraine was influenced directly by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Based in part on discussions he had with Putin, these officials said, Trump came to believe that Russia didn't interfere in the 2016 election, but Ukraine had instead.
It was this conspiracy theory that Trump referenced in his infamous July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Trump pushed Zelensky to conduct two investigations. One, which has received the most attention, was of Joe Biden and his son. But the other referenced the cybersecurity company Crowdstrike and a "server" from the 2016 election, the subject of a baseless conspiracy theory about Ukraine.
Fiona Hill, who served under Trump's former nationals security adviser John Bolton on the National Security Council as an expert in Russia, testified to Congress that this conspiracy theory is a myth intentionally propagated by Russian intelligence in order to deflect blame for its crimes and to undermine Ukraine. Reports have found that lawmakers have been briefed by U.S. intelligence officials on these findings, as well.
While some White House officials only inferred that Trump's belief in the Ukraine conspiracy came from Putin, others had more direct evidence, according to the report. The Post explained:
The report also found that many White House officials tried to disabuse Trump of this false notion, but they failed. Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer, has publicly bought into these theories.
In July 2017, when Trump had his much-discussed first meeting with Putin at the G-20, the pair spoke for a total of about three hours. One hour-long informal meeting at a dinner during that time was not initially disclosed by the White House.
The Post story continued: