“We could never quite understand it,” a former senior White House official said of Trump’s view of the former Soviet republic, also saying that much of it stemmed from the president’s embrace of conspiracy theories. “There were accusations that they had somehow worked with the Clinton campaign. There were accusations they’d hurt him. He just hated Ukraine.”…

Then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Volker that he would have about 45 seconds to brief Trump ahead of his meeting with Poroshenko. If Trump was interested in learning more, Tillerson said, the president would ask questions. Volker rushed through his pitch, according to former U.S. officials who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomatic topics.

Trump then peppered Volker with his negative views of Ukraine, suggesting that it wasn’t a “real country,” that it had always been a part of Russia, and that it was “totally corrupt.”…

“Many Americans feel strongly about supporting Ukraine because it’s the little guy and is fighting for values we consider fundamentally American,” said Molly Montgomery, who served on Vice President Pence’s staff and now works for the Albright Stonebridge Group. “But it’s clear that Trump doesn’t share that empathy. He’s more attracted generally to the powerful party in any dispute.”