In the newly released transcript of President Donald Trump’s call with the president of Ukraine, Trump not only asked the Ukrainian government to dig deeper into still-unfounded allegations about former Vice President Joe Biden, but also asked President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to do him another “favor.”
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“I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with … Crowdstrike,” Trump said, according to the memorandum released by the White House.
“The server, they say Ukraine has it,” Trump added on the July 25 call.
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Trump was apparently asking the Ukrainian president to open an investigation into what has repeatedly been described as a debunked conspiracy theory Trump has often promoted to defend himself against his Democratic critics.
Crowdstrike is the cybersecurity firm that first disclosed a massive Russian operation to infiltrate the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) servers in the months before the 2016 presidential election.
In June 2016, Crowdstrike published a report online “identifying two separate Russian intelligence-affiliated adversaries present in the DNC network in May 2016,” as Crowdstrike put it.
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Nearly three years later, special counsel Robert Mueller confirmed in his final report that Russians had breached the DNC servers and disseminated private emails in an effort to boost Trump’s presidential campaign.
Throughout Mueller’s investigation, however, Trump repeatedly questioned the investigation’s fairness and thoroughness because, he insisted, the FBI was never able to independently analyze the “server at the center of so much corruption.”
“Why did the DNC REFUSE to turn over its Server to the FBI, and still hasn’t? It’s all a big Dem scam and excuse for losing the election!” Trump tweeted in June 2017.
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
The headquarters of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) is seen in Washington, D.C, Aug. 22, 2018.
More than a year later, while speaking in Helsinki beside Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump spoke extensively about what he called the “missing” server.
“You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server. … I’ve been wondering that,” Trump said. “I’ve been asking that for months and months, and I’ve been tweeting it out and calling it out on social media. Where is the server? I want to know, where is the server?”
It’s unclear why Trump believes the server is “missing” or that it may now be in Ukraine.
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In March 2017, then-FBI Director James Comey was asked about the DNC server during testimony before the House Intelligence Committee — the same session when Comey publicly confirmed for the first time that the FBI was investigating potential ties between the Russian government and members of Trump’s presidential campaign.
During that testimony, Comey acknowledged the FBI “never got direct access to the machines themselves,” but he said Crowdstrike “ultimately shared with us their forensics from their review of the system,” which “my folks tell me was an appropriate substitute.”
Indeed, Crowdstrike’s work was cited in Mueller’s final report on Russia’s efforts to meddle in the 2016 presidential election. And an indictment filed by Mueller’s office against 12 Russians states: “Between on or about May 25, 2016 and June 1, 2016, the Conspirators hacked the DNC Microsoft Exchange Server and stole thousands of emails from the work accounts of DNC employees.”
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Trump and Ukrainian President Zelenskiy were both in New York on Wednesday when the transcript of their July 25 phone call was released. In asking Trump about the newly released transcript, an unidentified reporter appeared to conflate the DNC server often cited by Trump with another controversial email server: the private server used by Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.
The reporter asked Trump if he believes tens of thousands of emails deleted from Clinton’s private server might still be in Ukraine.
“I think they could be,” Trump responded.
Clinton’s private servers are not missing — instead, their contents were deleted by a Clinton staffer, and federal authorities were ultimately able to recover some but not all of the deleted emails.
In July 2016, Trump infamously declared, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”