Trump's Ukraine extortion scheme began as a plot to undermine Mueller: report
Robert Mueller testifies before Congress (screengrab)

A new report from the Washington Post claims that President Donald Trump's efforts to shake down the Ukrainian government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden actually began as an effort to undermine the work of special counsel Robert Mueller.

As the Post reports, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani has admitted publicly that he started traveling to Ukraine in late 2018 because he'd received a "tip" about the Ukrainian government conspiring against Trump.

While it's not known for certain who gave Giuliani this "tip," the Post notes that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has for years been pushing the theory that Ukraine framed the Russian government for the 2016 hack of the Democratic National Committee.

"In the summer of 2016, [Manafort] began to suggest to other Trump campaign aides that the Ukrainians might have been responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee in 2016, rather than the Russians," said that Post, citing sworn testimony by former deputy Trump campaign chairman Rick Gates. "Gates told investigators that Manafort’s comments attributing the hacks to Ukrainians 'parroted a narrative' that was also advanced at the time by Konstantin Kilimnik, an employee of Manafort who the FBI has assessed to have ties to Russian intelligence."

Paul Rosenzweig, an attorney who served on former special prosecutor Ken Starr's team in the 1990s, tells the Post that it appears that the president and his allies have been successfully manipulated by a Russian disinformation campaign.

"All roads lead to Russia," he said.