Charges of Ukrainian Meddling? A Russian Operation, U.S. Intelligence Says

Mr. Trump repeated the baseless claim on Friday in an interview with “Fox & Friends,” laying out the narrative and doubling down after a host gently pressed him on whether he was sure of one aspect of the debunked theory, that the F.B.I. gave a Democratic server to what Mr. Trump had inaccurately described as a Ukrainian-owned company.

That is what the word is,” Mr. Trump replied.

Some Republicans have also focused on Hunter Biden, raising questions about whether his hiring by the Ukrainian energy company Burisma was corrupt. Burisma hired Mr. Biden while his father, former Vice President Joseph Biden Jr., a potential rival of Mr. Trump’s in the 2020 election, was leading the Obama administration’s Ukraine policy. On the July 25 call, Mr. Trump also demanded Mr. Zelensky investigate Burisma and Hunter Biden.

Moscow has long used its intelligence agencies and propaganda machine to muddy the waters of public debate, casting doubts over established facts. In her testimony, Dr. Hill noted Russia’s pattern of trying to blame other countries for its own actions, like the attempted poisoning last year of a former Russian intelligence officer or the downing of a passenger jet over Ukraine in 2014. Moscow’s goal is to cast doubt on established facts, said current and former officials.

“The strategy is simply to create the impression that it is not really possible to know who was really behind it,” said Laura Rosenberger, the director of the Alliance for Defending Democracy, which tracks Russian disinformation efforts.

Although American intelligence agencies have made no formal classified assessment about the Russian disinformation campaign against Ukraine, officials at several of the agencies have broadly agreed for some time that Russian intelligence services have embraced tactics to shift responsibility for the 2016 interference campaign away from themselves, officials said.

Russia has relentlessly tried to deflect attention since the allegations of its interference campaign in the 2016 election first surfaced, one official said.

Mr. Putin began publicly pushing false theories of Ukrainian interference in the early months of 2017 to deflect responsibility from Russia, said Senator Angus King, independent of Maine and a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who declined to answer questions about the briefing.