President Donald Trump appears to have gotten his talking points about Ukraine from Russia if a recent Washington Post report is any indication.
A story revealed Sunday that one of Trump's most significant problems in fighting Ukraine-gate is that his attitudes about the country seem remarkably similar to that of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Putin wants the old Russian empire back,” said former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. “Crimea, Donbass, the whole country. As Russian tsar, as he sees himself, his empire cannot function without Ukraine. He sees us as his colony.”
Former Trump campaign manager began planting the seeds of anti-Ukraine sentiment in 2016, when he helped cook up the conspiracy theory that Ukraine had hacked the Democratic National Committee. The FBI investigated the hacked servers at the DNC and determined it was Russia. In fact, all American intelligence agencies agree that the DNC was hacked by Russia and that Russia was the source of the 2016 election meddling. It's unclear why Trump continues to push a conspiracy theory that Russia was not at fault.
Yet, when Trump's top advisers met with him in May to explain why the new Ukrainian leader was an ally, he wouldn't have it.
"They had barely begun their pitch when Trump unloaded on them, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with the meeting," The Post reported Sunday. "In Trump's mind, the officials said, Ukraine's entire leadership had colluded with the Democrats to undermine his 2016 presidential campaign."
"They tried to take me down," Trump said.
Rick Perry tried to explain to Trump that it wasn't Ukraine, and the new president was like nothing the country had before. Trump refused to believe the truth.
"They are horrible, corrupt people," Trump told the aides.
The Post noted that it's the one theme that runs throughout all of the depositions the Intelligence Committee has conducted since the impeachment inquiry began last month.
"We could never quite understand it," a former senior White House official said about the opposition to Ukraine. The former official also said that the opposition stemmed from the embrace of the conspiracy theories peddled by Manafort and his attorney Rudy Giuliani. "There were accusations that they had somehow worked with the Clinton campaign. There were accusations they'd hurt him. He just hated Ukraine."
In fact, Trump's anti-Ukrainian sentiment was so deep aides feared he would abandon the long-time ally. It was only after the presidents of the two nations sat down that Trump's view changed.
In 2017, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Ukrainian Ambassador Kurt Volker that all he had was about 45 seconds of Trump's attention to brief him on a meeting with former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. If Trump wanted more information, then he'd ask for it. Those who witnessed the briefing said Volker rushed through his pitch.
"Trump then peppered Volker with his negative views of Ukraine, suggesting that it wasn't a 'real country,' that it had always been a part of Russia, and that it was 'totally corrupt,'" The Post report said.
It was just two years later that Trump's belief in conspiracy theories led him to commit bribery.
"I would like for you to do us a favor, though," Trump told President Volodymyr Zelensky, according to a summary of the call posted by the White House.
It was those few words that would ultimately seal Trump's fate.
"He honestly believes that there may have been corruption in Ukraine, and before he turns over $400 million of American taxpayer money, he's entitled to ask," Kennedy said. "The issue to be litigated … is going to be: Did the president have a good-faith reason to believe that Hunter Biden may have been involved in corruption? And if I'm correct in my analysis, then there will be a lot of time spent on what Mr. Biden did for the money."
Unfortunately for Trump, the absence of an understanding one is committing a crime does not make one innocent of the crime.