By CALVIN WOODWARD and ERIC TUCKER
WASHINGTON (AP) – In the House impeachment hearings, national security experts implored politicians to stop playing into Russia’s hands by promoting a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine attacked the 2016 U.S. election.
That appeal was lost on President Donald Trump, who peddled the theory again Friday as he has for months.
“A lot of it had to do, they say, with Ukraine,” he said in a Fox News interview.
A look at his remarks:
TRUMP, referring to Democrats: “The FBI went in and they told them, get out of here, you’re not getting – we’re not giving it to you. They gave the server to CrowdStrike, or whatever it’s called, which is a country – which is a company owned by a very wealthy Ukrainian. And I still want to see that server. You know, the FBI has never gotten that server. That’s a big part of this whole thing. Why did they give it to a Ukrainian company? Why?”
THE FACTS: Trump’s statement is false in multiple ways.
CrowdStrike is not a Ukrainian company – it is based in Sunnyvale, California. It is not owned by a Ukrainian, but rather an American who emigrated to the U.S. as a child – from Russia, not Ukraine.
The cybersecurity firm made the original determination that Russia was responsible for the 2016 hack of Democratic emails that were subsequently disclosed by WikiLeaks. The company counts among its clients the National Republican Congressional Committee, for which it investigated email thefts by unidentified hackers during the 2018 campaign.
When Trump says the “FBI has never gotten that server,” he is referring to the fact that the FBI did not receive physical servers from the Democratic National Committee after its emails were hacked in the 2016 campaign.
Instead, the FBI relied on detailed forensics provided by CrowdStrike. The FBI confirmed those findings. Using that evidence, special counsel Robert Mueller’s team charged 12 Russian military officers with the hack.
Still, Trump persists not only in misidentifying the nationality of the owner and what country the firm is from, but in advancing the notion that Ukrainians hacked the DNC and made it look as if Russians did it.
TRUMP: “A lot of it had to do, they say, with Ukraine. … They have the server, right, from the DNC, Democratic National Committee, you know. … Well, that’s what the word is. … That’s the way it was explained.”
THE FACTS: “They say” and other such phrasing is Trump’s common attribution on this and other inflammatory matters. He couches unsupported accusations by attributing them to unidentified others.
None of the witnesses who testified at the House intelligence committees’ hearings – including those the Republicans wanted to hear from – gave credence to Trump’s theory that Ukraine attacked the U.S. election and tried to make Russia look like the villain.
Several testified to the contrary, that there is no evidence of Ukraine interference, and his own officials told him that such theories had been debunked even before he pressed Ukraine’s president to investigate them.
“Fictions,” Trump’s former special assistant on the National Security Council, Fiona Hill, testified Thursday.
She told committee members: “I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests.”
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EDITOR’S NOTE – A look at the veracity of claims by political figures