One of the two investigations Trump demanded from Ukraine had to do with his belief that they interfered in the 2016 election. Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee issued their report in response to the impeachment hearings that have been conducted so far and here is how they addressed that issue.
Publicly available—and irrefutable—evidence shows how senior Ukrainian government officials sought to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election in opposition to President Trump’s candidacy, and that some in the Ukrainian embassy in Washington worked with a Democratic operative to achieve that goal. While Democrats reflexively dismiss these truths as conspiracy theories, the facts are indisputable and bear heavily on the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.
I have already written that Ukrainians were right to be worried about a Trump presidency, while fact-checkers have debunked the conclusions Republicans reached based on the facts they claim are irrefutable. Furthermore, as Natasha Bertrand reports, the Senate Intelligence Committee investigated those claims and found them to lack any credibility.
But none of that addresses what Trump was demanding from Ukrainian President Zelensky. Based on the summary the White House released of their telephone call, here is what Trump said.
I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike… I guess you have one of your wealthy people… The server, they say Ukraine has it.
He wasn’t talking about anything a Ukrainian government official said about his candidacy in 2016. Instead, he was demanding that Zelensky investigate an actual conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine—not Russia—that hacked DNC computers. The president put an exclamation point on that when, the day after Fiona Hill labelled it Russian disinformation, he went on Fox and Friends to repeat the claim.
Remember, “Crowdstrike” is the conspiracy theory that Ukraine and the DNC framed Russia. Here’s President Trump again pushing this claim, supported by Republicans: that Russia is innocent, didn’t interfere in the 2016 election. Who did it? Ukraine and the DNC. pic.twitter.com/mmSjgKTQJq
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) November 22, 2019
As Glenn Kessler notes, Trump has been obsessed with this conspiracy theory, bringing it up over 20 times. He even talked about it during his press conference with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.
Just to be clear about what’s going on here, Brian Barrett broke it down for those of us who aren’t tech savvy.
Almost every aspect of this is demonstrably wrong. CrowdStrike is not a Ukrainian company. Its cofounder and chief technology officer, Dmitri Alperovitch, was born in Russia and has lived in the US since his teenage years. The company is based in Sunnyvale, California, and went public this summer. As is standard in this sort of incident response, CrowdStrike never took physical possession of any DNC server. Its analysts instead captured an “image” of the hard drives and memories of affected machines, exact replicas that it could examine for signs of malfeasance. It handed all of that forensic evidence over to the FBI, which Department of Justice deputy assistant attorney general Adam Hickey confirmed just last month. And if the logical contortions required to view CrowdStrike as somehow partisan in all of this aren’t already enough, know that the company counts the Republican National Congressional Committee among its clients.
Trump keeps talking about one server when, according to documents filed in a lawsuit the DNC brought against the Russian hackers, more than 140 servers were decommissioned, all software was removed and reinstalled from 180 computers, and 11 servers were fully rebuilt.
In other words, the president’s claims are not only based in ignorance, they are ludicrous. That is why Republicans have been forced to come up with an alternate story about how Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election. Even they can’t defend what the president pressured a foreign head of state to investigate.
Rosanlind Helderman explains why Trump continues to cling to this delusion. Towards the end of 2018, Muller’s investigation was bearing down on the president.
It was in this uncertain moment that Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani said he had the idea to focus on Ukraine. That November, he received a tip from a former colleague that it was the Ukrainians who had conspired to help Democrats in 2016, Giuliani said in recent interviews.
“I knew they were hot and heavy on this Russian collusion thing, even though I knew 100 percent that it was false,” Giuliani recently told conservative broadcaster Glenn Beck. “I said to myself, ‘Hallelujah.’ I’ve got what a defense lawyer always wants: I can go prove someone else committed this crime.”
As we’ve seen over the years, Trump has never accepted the fact that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to support him. Neither his ego nor his handler in Moscow will allow that. He’s not pushing the argument made by Republicans that Russia did the hacking but Ukraine meddled too. He’s saying that someone other than Russia “committed this crime.”
Republicans are doing everything in their power to avoid having to deal with that discrepancy. But as Speaker Pelosi made so clear, “All roads lead to Putin.”
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