Vladimir Putin was hoping for a sign from former US president Donald Trump before he sent Russian troops to invade Ukraine.
Andrew Weissmann, a former member of the team investigating wrongdoing during Trump’s presidency, said the Russian leader had been waiting on a "wink" from Trump before launching his invasion.
Weissmann told PBS radio that Trump lackey Paul Manafort and Russian intelligence officer Konstantin Kilimnik had discussed the idea of Russia claiming part of Ukraine, and a "wink" from the former president was needed to "make this work”.
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He said the conversation was "such a clear indication of what Vladimir Putin was trying to do".
Trump has recently admitted he would have "made a deal" for Moscow to claim large chunks of Ukrainian territory in order to bring the war to a swift end.
He told interviewer Sean Hannity: "At worst, I could have made a deal to take over something, you know, there are certain areas that are Russian speaking areas, right, like, but you could have worked a deal. And now Ukraine is just being blown to smithereens.”
In the heavily-edited video Trump also bragged “we could end the Ukraine conflict in 24 hours with the right leadership”.
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Weissmann was part of the team investigating Russian interference in 2016’s US presidential election, which found significant evidence that Putin had ordered an "aggressive, multifaceted effort to influence, or attempt to influence, the outcome of the 2016 presidential election".
In the team’s 2020 report, it was stated that ”Kilimnik and Manafort formed a close and lasting relationship that would endure to the 2016 U.S. elections and beyond”.
Investigators say Manafort "discussed with Kilimnik a peace plan for eastern Ukraine that benefited the Kremlin”.
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The report also said that Manafort's high-level access and willingness to share information with individuals closely affiliated with the Russian intelligence services, particularly Kilimnik, represented a "grave counterintelligence threat”.
Trump had also made contact with Ukrainian officials, repeatedly begging President Volodomyr Zelenskyy to supply him with dirt on Joe Biden’s son Hunter.
When the information wasn’t forthcoming, Trump put a hold on military aid being sent to Ukraine.
When that policy was questioned, Trump henchman Mick Mulvaney said: "We do that all the time with foreign policy… Get over it. There's going to be political influence in foreign policy."
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