In a classified briefing this fall, US intelligence officials told senators and their aides that Russia has engaged in a years-long campaign to shift the blame away from Russia and onto Ukraine for interfering in the 2016 American presidential campaign, according to two US officials.
That briefing aligns closely with Thursday’s testimony from Fiona Hill, President Trump’s former top Russia expert. The message conveyed by US intelligence officials to lawmakers also takes on new relevance as many of those conspiracy theories have been increasingly repeated by Republican lawmakers.
Senators were told that the Russian disinformation operation focused on a handful of Ukrainians who openly criticized or sought to damage Trump’s candidacy — efforts that were significantly less organized than the multi-faceted election interference push ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin, one US official said, confirming details first reported by the New York Times.
US intelligence officials also told lawmakers that Russia used intelligence operatives to spread now debunked conspiracies, along with established facts, to frame Ukraine for the interference in the 2016 campaign, the official said.
Russian intelligence officers conveyed that information to prominent Russians and Ukrainians, including oligarchs, to pass along to US political figures and some journalists who likely were unaware of where it came from, according to the same official.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which primarily oversees efforts to counter foreign election interference, declined to comment.