US intel officials believe Trump has been duped by a 'yearslong' Russian effort to blame Ukraine for 2016
President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet in Helsinki (Screen cap).

A new report from the New York Times claims that American intelligence officials believe that the effort to blame Ukraine for meddling in the 2016 presidential election is part of a "yearslong" Russian intelligence operation aimed at exonerating Moscow.

According to the Times, intelligence officials recently "informed senators and their aides in recent weeks that Russia had engaged in a yearslong campaign to essentially frame Ukraine as responsible for Moscow’s own hacking of the 2016 election."

The intelligence officials' briefing was reportedly similar in nature to the opening statement that former National Security Council official Fiona Hill delivered during impeachment hearings this week, in which she chided some Republicans for buying into conspiracy theories about alleged Ukrainian meddling.

No GOP official, however, has gone as far into buying the Ukraine conspiracy theory as President Donald Trump, who on Friday left the hosts of "Fox & Friends" visibly unnerved as he ranted about the discredited theory about Crowdstrike and the Democratic National Committee's email server.

Intelligence officials who spoke with the Times say that they believe Oleg Deripaska, the Russian oligarch to whom former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort owed millions of dollars, has been "relied on to spread disinformation about Ukrainian interference."