By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
After the small talk with Ukraine’s new president was done, President Trump got down to business. His first ask wasn’t about Joe Biden. It was about access to CrowdStrike’s server that he believed was in Ukraine.
CrowdStrike is the California-based cybersecurity firm hired by the Democratic National Committee in 2016 to investigate the hack of its emails. CrowdStrike connected those attacks to Russian intelligence services that infiltrated the DNC’s computers and delivered the stolen emails to WikiLeaks.
According to a transcript of the July 25 phone call released by the White House, here’s what Trump told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky one day after Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified before Congress about alleged Russian interference in U.S. elections:
“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 you to get to the bottom of it. As you saw yesterday, that whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller, an incompetent performance, but they say a lot of it started with Ukraine. Whatever you can do, it’s very important that you do it if that’s possible.”
Why did Trump ask about CrowdStrike?
Trump and Stone
On May 10, defense lawyers for Trump’s longtime friend and political advisor Roger Stone filed a motion to compel the Justice Department to produce unredacted versions of CrowdStrike’s reports to the DNC.
Much of Stone’s legal defense was rooted in an effort to suppress all the evidence obtained in 18 search warrants, citing a conservative conspiracy theory that he argued invalidates the warrants. That theory contends the 44,053 stolen emails from the DNC, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and John Podesta, the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, were leaked by an insider, not hacked by Russians operating as “Guccifer 2.0”.
According to Stone, CrowdStrike’s handling of the Democrats’ computers undermined its investigation and conclusions and tainted the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia was behind the intrusion or that Russia delivered the stolen data to WikiLeaks.
The government later informed Stone’s lawyers, including Fort Lauderdale’s Robert Buschel, Bruce Rogow and Grant Smith, that it did not have an unredacted version of CrowdStrike’s report. At a July 16 hearing, Stone’s defense conceded that as a result, their motion was moot.
A week later, President Trump asked President Zelensky for the “favor” of access to CrowdStrike’s server, where an unredacted copy, if it exists, might be found.
Zelensky replied with vague assurances of friendship and cooperation. “Yes, it is very important for me and everything that you just mentioned earlier,” said Zelensky.
Stone, a Fort Lauderdale resident who served as a consultant to Trump’s campaign until August 2015, was indicted in January by a federal grand jury on charges of making false statements to Congress, obstructing a congressional proceeding and tampering with a witness in connection with that proceeding. More specifically, it is alleged that after WikiLeaks released the tens of thousands of stolen emails, Stone claimed both publicly and privately that he had been in contact with WikiLeaks, but later testified falsely before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and sought to interfere with the testimony of others.
Last week, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington, D.C. formally denied Stone’s motion to compel, as well as a companion motion seeking to suppress the search warrant evidence. The judge didn’t rule on the merits of Stone’s theory, but said he failed to show that FBI agents who provided affidavits to obtain the search warrants made statements that were “deliberately false or were made in reckless disregard for the truth.”
“Defendant must demonstrate that the issuing judge or magistrate was misled. Defendant has not come close to meeting this standard,” Jackson said.
The ruling, originally filed under seal, was made public this week.
The fact that Trump would pressure Zelensky for access to the CrowdStrike server is intriguing. If he did it to help Stone’s defense, it suggests Trump is worried that Stone will flip on him
Now that Judge Berman has rejected Stone’s CrowdStrike arguments, he might be right.