- A conspiracy theory that Ukraine hacked Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee made headlines when Trump invoked it in a call with Ukraine’s president earlier this year, but newly released documents obtained by BuzzFeed News show that the idea floated around the campaign as early as 2016.
- In a memo produced following an interview with Rick Gates as part of the Mueller investigation, investigators wrote that Gates said Trump campaign staffers offered many different theories of who could have hacked their competitors.
- Paul Manafort thought Ukraine was the culprit, and Michael Flynn simply thought it wasn’t Russia. Other theories included Israeli intelligence.
- Gates said Trump ordered staffers to get the emails before they were released, and the Michael Flynn offered his intelligence community resources as help.
- Read more stories like this on Business Insider.
A wild but debunked conspiracy theory recently made national news when President Donald Trump referred to “CrowdStrike” during his notorious summertime call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
But on Saturday, new documents obtained and released by BuzzFeed News from the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation revealed that the conspiracy theory floated around the Trump campaign as early as 2016.
During the Trump-Zelensky call on July 25, Trump pushed for an investigation into the Bidens, but also to look into the unsubstantiated theory that Ukraine — not Russia — was responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee in the summer of 2016 in an effort to damage Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Mueller’s investigators learned through testimony from Trump’s former campaign deputy chair Rick Gates — who struck a plea deal prosecutors to testify against his former boss Paul Manafort — that numerous ideas were floated among the Trump campaign about who had knowledge and who could have hacked Clinton and the DNC.
Gates also told investigators that Manafort theorized that Ukraine was behind the hack, an idea he said was frequently echoed by Manafort associate Konstantin Kilimnik.
According to Gates, Michael Flynn, who was a campaign adviser at the time, was vocal about his belief that Russia wasn’t the hacking culprit, suggesting that if they were the US intelligence community would have already figured it was them. Gates says Flynn also offered to use his intelligence connection to retrieve the emails, after Trump told campaign staffers on a campaign plane to “get the emails.”
Gates also said that someone at the Republican National Committee knew when the Wikileaks release of the emails would come, suggesting some connection between the organizations, but he did not specify who.
The memo of Gates’ testimony was made available by a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by BuzzFeed and other organizations, which resulted in the release of 500 pages of evidence used in the Mueller investigation.