Paul Manafort pushed theory that Ukraine was behind Democrat hack: Mueller documents

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort pushed the idea that Ukraine, not Russia, was behind the hack of the Democratic National Committee’s servers, Manafort’s deputy told investigators during the special counsel’s Russia probe. The unsubstantiated theory, advanced by President Donald Trump even after he took office, would later help trigger the impeachment inquiry now consuming the White House.

Notes from an FBI interview were released Saturday after a lawsuit by BuzzFeed News that led to public access to hundreds of pages of documents from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. The documents included summaries of interviews with other figures from the Mueller probe, including Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.

Information related to Ukraine took on renewed interest after calls for impeachment based on efforts by the president and his administration to pressure Ukraine to investigate Democrat Joe Biden. Trump, when speaking with Ukraine’s new president in July, asked about the server in the same phone call in which he pushed for an investigation into Biden.

Manafort speculated about Ukraine’s responsibility as the campaign sought to capitalize on DNC email disclosures and as associates discussed how they could get hold of the material themselves, deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates told investigators, according to a summary of his interview with investigators.

Gates said Manafort’s assertion that Ukraine might have done it echoed the position of Konstantin Kilimnik, a Manafort business associate who had also speculated that the hack could have been carried out by Russian operatives in Ukraine. U.S. authorities have assessed that Kilimnik, who was also charged in Mueller’s investigation, has ties to Russian intelligence.

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