Several aides who once worked for President Donald Trump say that his insistence upon believing and promoting a conspiracy theory faulting Ukraine with interfering in the 2016 presidential race came from one likely source: Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Fifteen former Trump administration officials, including senior aides to the president, spoke to the Washington Post, which reported the story this week.
The aides detailed how Trump latched onto the idea right when he entered office that Ukraine — not Russia — interfered in 2016. The conspiracy theory alleging that Kyiv had a DNC server or somehow even framed Russia has been debunked several times, and is not an idea that is accepted as truthful by the U.S. intelligence community.
Yet Trump held true to the idea, in spite of it not being based on any hard evidence. His aides say there appears to be a singular source that began his wild and errant belief: Putin himself.
One former official who spoke to the Post said that Trump himself told them that it was Putin who insisted Ukraine interfered. “Putin told me” that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that meddled in U.S. elections, the official recalled Trump saying to them.
Trump’s Ukraine Extortion Scheme Was Financed by Russians
Federal prosecutors charged Trump’s associate, Lev Parnas, was wired $1 million from a Russian bank account weeks before his arrest—Trump’s Ukraine plot appears to have been financed by Russia.https://t.co/KyigmRpAGx
— Dennis S Brotman (@DenbrotS) December 13, 2019
Another official claimed Trump regularly spoke ill of Ukraine, while dismissing Russia’s role in helping to elect him president.
“He would say: ‘This is ridiculous. Everyone knows I won the election. The greatest election in the world. The Russians didn’t do anything. The Ukrainians tried to do something,'” that official recounted.
Trump’s comments on the conspiracy theory have made their way into the public arena as well. Last month, Trump conducted an interview with Fox News, where he insisted a company called CrowdStrike had removed a Democratic Party email server into hiding in Ukraine.
“That’s a big part of this whole thing. Why did they give it to a Ukrainian company?” Trump asked of the Democrats.
CrowdStrike is an American company, not a Ukrainian one. Its founder is an individual who emigrated from Russia, not Ukraine.
Several Republican lawmakers have adopted the errant claim now, too, as part of their defense of Trump during the impeachment saga, USA Today has reported.