By mentioning Crowdstrike in the phone call, the U.S. president was trying to get Russia off the hook for the 2016 email hacks.
Donald Trump was seeking a second quid pro quo in his July 25 phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and it wasn't about the Bidens.
According to the White House’s summary memo, Zelensky said Ukraine was eager to acquire military aid, particularly anti-tank weapons, for its five-year-old fight against Russia. Trump responded by asking for “a favor”:
“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. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation. I think you're surrounding yourself with some of the same people. I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like to get to the bottom of it."
Crowdstrike is the cybersecurity firm that in 2016 first identified the presence of Russian military on the Democratic National Committee’s servers. The intelligence community soon came to a “high confidence” conclusion that Russia stole information from the DNC and from Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta — data that later showed up on Wikileaks.
Trump and his supporters have since pushed a conspiracy theory that the Obama-era FBI investigation into the DNC hack was not thorough and that Crowdstrike somehow falsified information to harm Trump. There is no evidence for this. The intelligence community concluded that Russia hacked the DNC. Even the National Republican Congressional Committee later hired Crowdstrike to provide cybersecurity services before the 2018 election.
Oh God. This... seems totally plausible. One of the two “favors” Trump sought from a foreign leader seems to have been premised on the completely false impression that the U.S. firm Crowdstrike is Ukranian, and could cough up some DNC server...— Julian Sanchez (@normative) September 25, 2019
In broaching this “favor,” Trump is essentially asking the president of a country under attack by Russia to help him undermine the findings of the U.S. intelligence community. He is also asking Zelensky to help conceal the activities of Russian GRU agents who did the 2016 hack and have since attacked Ukraine.
During a joint press conference with Zelensky at the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, Trump was asked about military aid. He suggested that the Ukrainian leader “get together with President Putin and solve your problem.”
Zelensky did not respond.
Look of existential terror descends over Zelensky's face as Trump responds to question about military aid with suggestion that Zelensky work things out with Putin. pic.twitter.com/XmsyMi3cbj— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) September 25, 2019