Trump's obsession with conspiracy theories is helping trap him in the impeachment investigation
- Former US special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker told Congress that US President Donald Trump endorsed a conspiracy theory about Ukraine interfering in the 2016 election to undermine his candidacy.
- Volker, whose testimony was released by House Democrats on Tuesday, said Trump was suspicious of Ukraine in part because of the conspiracy theory promoted by his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
- Volker's statement aligns with testimony made by Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union.
- The testimony provides further confirmation that Trump and his inner circle subscribe to the unfounded theory, and that it helped drive the president to withhold security aide from Ukraine over the summer.
- For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
Former US special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker said during his congressional testimony that American President Donald Trump endorsed a conspiracy theory that Ukraine had interfered in the 2016 election to undermine his candidacy.
Volker, whose testimony was released by House Democrats on Tuesday, said Trump was suspicious of Ukraine both because of the country's history of corruption and because of the unfounded conspiracy theory about its interference in the 2016 election, which Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, promoted.
"[Trump] gave the example of hearing from Rudy Giuliani that they're all corrupt, they're all terrible people, that they were - they tried to take me down - meaning the President in the 2016 election," Volker said of Trump's comments on Ukraine.
Volker said Trump rejected the "positive narrative" about Ukraine that Volker and others were relating to him because of contradictory information Giuliani was giving him.
He explained that Trump voiced support for the unfounded theory "that Ukrainians had sought to influence the 2016 election by providing derogatory information about President Trump and about Mr. Manafort to the Hillary Clinton campaign, that this was done by passing that information to our ambassador at the time in Ukraine, Masha Yovanovitch" and to the Ukrainian ambassador to the US.
Volker's statement aligns with testimony made by Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, who also told impeachment investigators that Trump made a comment to him that "Ukraine was trying to take him down."
"The President was railing about Ukraine in the meeting at the White House, and he was going on and on and on about his dissatisfaction with Ukraine," Sondland said. "He didn't even want to deal with it anymore. And he basically waved and said: Go talk to Rudy, he knows all about Ukraine."
Trump's conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban also influenced his belief that Ukraine is "poisoned" by rampant corruption and attempted to interfere in the 2016 election to hurt him, current and former US officials recently told The Washington Post.
Putin and Orban - a far right populist with close ties to the Kremlin - reportedly sought to undermine the US-Ukraine relationship in the weeks leading up to Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, which is at the center of the impeachment probe.
Sondland and Volker's testimony is further confirmation that Trump and his inner circle subscribe to the unfounded theory and that it helped drive the president to withhold security aide from Ukraine over the summer.
The House impeachment inquiry is currently probing whether the president pushed Ukraine to investigate his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, in exchange for nearly $400 million in congressionally-approved military aid.
Some of Trump's supporters in the media, including Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, have also promoted the theory. And former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders accused the Democratic National Committee of coordinating opposition research targeting Trump with the Ukrainian embassy.
In reality, Alexandra Chalupa, a Ukrainian-American Democratic operative who worked with the DNC, reached out to Ukrainian officials during her investigation into Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort.
Manafort, who served as an adviser to former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, was sentenced to more than seven years in prison last March after being convicted of conspiring to hide the lucrative work he did for the Russia-aligned Ukrainian politician and for attempting to tamper with witnesses, in addition to committing financial fraud.
John Haltiwanger contributed to this report.
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