Not enough Pinocchios for Trump’s CrowdStrike obsession

Brian Kilmeade of “Fox and Friends”: “Are you sure they did that? Are you sure they gave it to Ukraine?”

Trump: “Well, that’s what the word is.”

The president persists in pursuing a debunked conspiracy theory. Somehow, we’ve never gotten around to assigning a Pinocchio rating for this claim. Maybe that’s because there aren’t enough Pinocchios available in our system to truly do this justice.

Note to the president: When even one of your strongest TV allies expresses skepticism about a claim, it’s probably time to drop it.

The Facts

Trump made these comments the day after Fiona Hill, his former top Russia adviser, told Congress that any notion that Ukraine intervened in the 2016 election was a hoax hatched by Russia to deflect from its well-documented efforts to interfere in the vote.

“Some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did,” Hill said. “This is a fictional narrative that is being perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.”

Trump’s GOP allies on the committee reacted with some outrage at her comments, insisting that they did not deny Russian involvement. Yet just hours later, Trump once again insisted the real culprit was Ukraine.

Let’s deconstruct Trump’s remarks:

“They [Ukraine] have this server, right? From the DNC, Democratic National Committee.”

The server is not in Ukraine; it’s in Washington, displayed at the DNC’s offices beside a filing cabinet the Watergate burglars pried open in 1972. (Here’s a photo of the server and the filing cabinet that ran on the front page of the New York Times in 2016.)

Trump first publicly raised this strange theory shortly after he became president, in an April 2017 interview with the Associated Press. He brought it up again in his July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s apparently nonplussed president, Volodymyr Zelensky: “The server, they say Ukraine has it,” Trump told Zelensky.

Thomas P. Bossert, who served as Trump’s first homeland security adviser, said Sept. 29 that the president has been repeatedly told by White House aides that the story has been “completely debunked.”

“The DNC server and that conspiracy theory has got to go,” Bossert said on ABC News’s “This Week.” “If he continues to focus on that white whale, it’s going to bring him down.”

But Trump keeps pursuing the white whale.

“The FBI went in and they told them, ‘Get out of here. You’re not getting it. We’re not giving it to you.’ ”

But the FBI felt it was not necessary to enter the DNC’s premises and take custody of the affected servers, as agents were able to obtain complete copies of forensic images made by CrowdStrike, which first identified that the DNC had been hacked by Russian operatives. Then-FBI Director James B. Comey testified that his staff told him that this arrangement was an “appropriate substitute.”

In any case, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation confirmed CrowdStrike’s findings and even indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers in 2018 over their alleged role in the breach.

“They gave the server to CrowdStrike or whatever it’s called, which is a company owned by a very wealthy Ukrainian.”

CrowdStrike co-founder Dmitri Alperovitch is a cyber and national security expert who was born in Russia and now is a U.S. citizen; he is not Ukrainian.

“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?”

Nope. CrowdStrike is a California company, founded in 2011 in Sunnyvale. It trades on Nasdaq under the ticket symbol CRWD. In fact, it went public about a month before Trump’s call with Zelensky, earning headlines for popping as much as 97 percent in its first day of trading.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

The Pinocchio Test

In the space of 10 sentences, Trump told Four Whoppers. Ukraine does not have the server, the FBI did not need physical possession to investigate, CrowdStrike was not founded by a Ukrainian, and it is not a Ukrainian company. It is dismaying that despite all of the evidence assembled by his top aides, Trump keeps repeating debunked theories and inaccurate claims that he first raised more than two years ago.

There are some days when we wish we were not limited to just Four Pinocchios. We were tempted to display 16 Pinnochios, four for each false statement. But this claim will certainly end up on our list of the Biggest Pinocchios of 2019.

Four Pinocchios

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