- Trump told officials that he believed that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 presidential election because Russia's president Vladimir Putin 'told me," reported The Washington Post.
- The president has continued to push the discredited conspiracy, and pressured Ukraine's president to announce an investigation into it in the phone call on July 25 that resulted in his impeachment on Wednesday.
- Trump has faced scrutiny over his relationship with Russia, which launched a massive campaign to tip the 2016 election in his favor through hacking and disinformation.
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President Donald Trump stated that he believed that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 US presidential election because Russian President Vladimir Putin had personally told him, a former senior White House security official told The Washington Post.
Multiple former officials told the publication that shortly after Trump had taken office in 2017, he had begun insisting that Ukrain had sought to subvert the 2016 election, despite multiple US intelligence agencies finding that Russia was to blame.
The officials told the Post that Trump increasingly fixed on the widely debunked theory after speaking with Putin personally at the July 2017 G8 summit in Germany. He subsequently cited the Russian president as one of his sources for the conspiracy.
The White House has not commented on the report.
The claims of Putin's role in shaping Trump's views comes days after Trump became only the third US president in history to be impeached, with the House of Representatives finding that he abused in power in seeking to pressure Ukraine to announce an investigation into his 2020 presidential rival Joe Biden as well as the debunked Ukraine conspiracy.
In a phonecall with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky that sparked the impeachment probe, Trump requested that Zelensky probe a theory that a Democratic National Committee server hacked by Russia in 2016 was secretly stashed in Ukraine — despite no such server physically existing.
The New York Times, citing intelligence sources, has reported that Russian intelligence planted the conspiracy theory of Ukrainian involvement in the 2016 presidential election as a smokescreen to detract from its culpability.
Multiple top US officials interviewed as part of the impeachment probe have rubbished the Ukraine interference theory, but in an interview with Fox News in November Trump again gain credence to the conspiracy.
Putin on Thursday claimed that impeachment charges against Trump were fabricated, and echoed Trump's claim that Democrats were using impeachment as part of a partisan bid to seize power.
Trump has faced intense scrutiny over his relationship with Russia's leader since before taking office. The report into Russian interference in 2016 by Special Counsel Robert Mueller submitted to Congress in March did not find sufficient evidence that Trump or his officials had engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Russia to warrant criminal charges.
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