Russia

Putin, Hungarian leader pushed Trump on Ukraine corruption narrative: reports

Days before a key meeting with White House advisers about Ukraine, foreign leaders including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban reportedly urged President Trump to take a hostile view of Kiev.

Trump met with Orban on May 13, 10 days before the meeting with several top presidential advisers, including now-outgoing Energy Secretary Rick Perry, former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker and U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, The New York Times reports.

His conversations with Orban and Putin strengthened his views that Ukraine was a corrupt nation looking to undermine him in the 2016 presidential election, The Washington Post reports.

The Hungarian and Russian leaders, however, reportedly did not specifically urge Trump to ask Ukraine for information on Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden.

Former national security adviser John Bolton and Fiona Hill, the former National Security Council's senior director for Eurasian and Russian affairs, opposed the Trump-Orban White House meeting, but acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney ultimately overruled them, the Post reports.

During the May 23 meeting, several top Trump advisers reportedly reassured the president that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky deserved support from the U.S., but Trump called the Ukrainians "terrible people" who "tried to take me down" in 2016.

At the time of the meeting, Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani was also working to influence the president about Ukraine as he aimed to pressure Kiev to provide damaging information about Democrats. Trump then pressured Zelensky during a July 25 call to investigate Biden and his son. House Democrats launched in impeachment inquiry in September amid revelations surrounding that call. 

The Orban visit came up during closed-door testimony last week from George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of State, according to the Post, Kent was the fourth witness in the impeachment investigation, following Volker, Hill and former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.

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