Four days after that call, Mr. Trump said on Sean Hannity’s Fox News program that he “would imagine” that Attorney General William P. Barr would like to review information about Ukraine’s actions in the 2016 election.
On Wednesday, the Justice Department said that the official named to review the origins of the counterintelligence investigation into Mr. Trump’s campaign, John H. Durham, is looking into the role of Ukraine, among other countries. “While the attorney general has yet to contact Ukraine in connection with this investigation, certain Ukrainians who are not members of the government have volunteered information to Mr. Durham, which he is evaluating,” the Justice Department said in a statement.
When the American delegation dispatched to Mr. Zelensky’s inauguration — including Energy Secretary Rick Perry — reported back favorably in May about the new leader, Mr. Trump was dismissive. “They’re terrible people,” he said of Ukrainian politicians, according to people familiar with the meeting. “They’re all corrupt and they tried to take me down.”
Mr. Trump’s suspicions played out in public on Wednesday, both in the reconstructed transcript of the July 25 call and in a meeting at the United Nations with Mr. Zelensky. Asked at his appearance with Mr. Zelensky if he believed that Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails are on a server spirited into Ukraine — an element of an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory circulating on the far right — Mr. Trump replied, “Yeah, I think they could very well — boy, that was a nice question.”
Mr. Trump’s focus on Ukraine started after a law enforcement organization, the National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine, released damaging information about cash payments earmarked to his campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, by the Russia-aligned political party of Ukraine’s ousted former president.
Even after Mr. Manafort stepped down from the Trump campaign under pressure, he insisted to Mr. Trump’s aides that Mrs. Clinton’s campaign was behind the surfacing of the documents revealing the payments, and questioned the authenticity of the documents.
Mr. Manafort remained in contact with Mr. Trump’s aides through the election. And during the presidential transition, Mr. Manafort told people that he was discussing possible investigations with the president-elect’s team into whether Ukrainians tried to undermine the Trump campaign through the release of damaging information about Mr. Manafort.