'Putin told me': Former White House officials say Russian president convinced Trump of Ukraine conspiracy theory
Putin's approval ratings remain at a level most Western leaders would envy but they have taken a hit from a stalling economy and declining living standards SPUTNIK/AFP/File / Alexey NIKOLSKY

Former top officials from the Trump White House say they "feared" Vladimir Putin convinced President Donald Trump of a widely-debunked conspiracy theory – that Ukraine, and not Russia, attacked the U.S. 2016 election.

"Almost from the moment he took office, President Trump seized on a theory that troubled his senior aides," The Washington Post reports, that "Ukraine, he told them on many occasions, had tried to stop him from winning the White House."

That conspiracy theory, debunked and decimated by a now-famous Intelligence Community unanimous consensus that Russia attacked the 2016 election,  apparently got into Trump's head via President Putin.

“The strong belief in the White House was that Putin told him,” one former official said.


One former senior White House official said Trump even stated so explicitly at one point, saying he knew Ukraine was the real culprit because “Putin told me.”

Apparently it was Trump's first meetings with Putin, at the July, 2017 G20 Summit in Hamburg, that "were a turning point," the Post reports.

Three former senior administration officials said Trump repeatedly insisted after the G-20 summit that he believed Putin’s assurances that Russia had not interfered in the 2016 campaign. The officials said Kelly, national security adviser H.R. McMaster and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson all tried to caution Trump not to rely on Putin’s word, and to focus on evidence to the contrary that U.S. intelligence agencies had collected.

Over the next several months, Trump privately told aides on several occasions that he believed Ukraine had interfered and tried to help Clinton win the White House, former officials said.

Another former Trump White House official "said the President 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.’ "

Read the entire Washington Post report here.