DNC server con­spir­acy the­o­ries are bonkers

Daily Southtown (Sunday) - - BUSINESS - Jonah Gold­berg

On the right

The im­peach­ment drama is al­ready a three-ring cir­cus, with a full com­ple­ment of clowns to the left and the right.

But if you’ve ever been to a three­r­ing-cir­cus, you knowthat it’s hard to take it all in at once.

Iwant to fo­cus on one de­tail that hasn’t got­ten enough at­ten­tion: the “miss­ing” DNC server that the pres­i­dent be­lieves might be in Ukraine.

If you’ve paid any at­ten­tion to the im­peach­ment drama, you knowthe ba­sics. The cen­ter-ring story is that Pres­i­dent Trump al­legedly tried to pres­sureVolody­myr Ze­len­skiy, the new pres­i­dent of Ukraine (by with­hold­ing mil­i­tary aid and an Oval Of­fice meet­ing) to in­ves­ti­gate for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den by with­hold­ing mil­i­tary aid.

In his now-in­fa­mous phone call with Ze­len­skiy, Trump asked for a “fa­vor” in two parts. The se­cond part, which ev­ery­one fo­cuses on, was the re­quest for the Ukraini­ans towork with Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Gi­u­liani, and At­tor­ney Gen­er­alWil­liam Barr in an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Bi­den and Bi­den’s sonHunter.

The first part of the fa­vor is far less con­tro­ver­sial. Trump asked Ze­len­skiy to look into the sta­tus of theDNC email server that the FBI and for­mer spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor RobertMuel­ler say­was hacked by the Rus­sians ahead of the 2016 elec­tion. Re­mem­ber, this is the sameMuelle­r­whom the pres­i­dent cites for his “to­tal ex­on­er­a­tion” fromthe Rus­sian col­lu­sion al­le­ga­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to the rough tran­script re­leased by the White­House, Trump said, “Iwould like you to find out what hap­pened with this whole sit­u­a­tion with Ukraine, they say CrowdStrik­e ... I guess you have one of your­wealthy peo­ple ... The server, they say Ukraine has it.”

This fa­vor is less con­tro­ver­sial be­cause Trump’s de­fend­ers don’t con­tro­vert it. It’s cen­tral to their de­fense. They con­cede Trump asked for this fa­vor, con­tend­ing that by the time Trump got to the “other thing” hewanted from Ze­len­skiy— an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Bi­den— he­was no longer ask­ing for a “fa­vor” at all. Trump­would never ask for a quid pro quo to smear a po­lit­i­cal op­po­nent, they in­sist. But ask­ing for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the server? That’s en­tirely ap­pro­pri­ate. After all, there’s an of­fi­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tion into howthe FBI launched its Rus­sia/Trump probe in the first place. Ask­ing for help with that is wholly le­git­i­mate.

In White­House chief of staff Mick Mul­vaney’s dis­as­trous news con­fer­ence re­cently, he ad­mit­ted there­was an at­tempted quid pro quo with Ukraine. (“Get over it,” he ex­claimed.) But in Mul­vaney’s ver­sion of events, it didn’t have any­thing to do with Bi­den. It did, how­ever, have to do with “the cor­rup­tion re­lated to theDNC server.”

But here’s the thing: This is nuts. There’s a con­spir­acy the­ory, pop­u­lar in the Oval Of­fice and the swampier cor­ners of the in­ter­net, that the hack­ing of theDNC’s email server­swasn’t or­ches­trated by Rus­sia but by Ukraine— to ben­e­fit Hil­lary Clin­ton!

This makes no sense for count­less rea­son­swe don’t have space for. But it’s worth not­ing that in the most pop­u­lar ver­sion of this story, theDNC hack­was an in­side job, con­ducted by a low-level staffer named Seth Rich, whowas then mur­dered to keep him from­ex­pos­ing the plot to frame the Rus­sians.

CrowdStrik­e, a cy­ber­se­cu­rity firm, was hired to an­a­lyze the server— which was ac­tu­ally more than 140 dif­fer­ent servers. Rather than take pos­ses­sion of the server(s), CrowdStrik­e made dig­i­tal mir­ror copies of the whole she­bang. Thiswas al­legedly a cover-up. As Trump tweeted in 2018, “Where is the DNC Server, and­why didn’t the FBI take pos­ses­sion of it? Deep State?”

It gets loop­ier. As Trump sug­gested in his call with Ze­len­skiy, the the­ory is that CrowdStrik­e is a Ukrainian-owned or Ukrainian-con­nected com­pany. It’s not. It’s based in Cal­i­for­nia, and the al­leged Ukrainian co-founder of the com­pany was born in Rus­sia. The sug­ges­tion that “the server” is be­ing hid­den in some Ukraini­an­ware­house, like the Ark of the Covenant at the end of the first In­di­ana Jones­movie, is straight-up bonkers.

Rea­son­able peo­ple can dis­agree on what to make of all this. But when you hear Trump de­fend­ers talk about the “cor­rup­tion re­lated to theDNC server” as away to de­flect fromthe trou­bling al­le­ga­tion about the Bi­den in­ves­ti­ga­tion, it makes as much sense as say­ing “the cor­rup­tion re­lated to Jim­myHoffa’s body in Ukraine” or “the cor­rup­tion re­lated to the atomic rabbit prowl­ing the sew­ers of Kiev.” And that should be trou­bling too.

Tri­bune Con­tent Agency

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