United States President Donald Trump called into a Fox News program on November 22 2019, spending nearly an hour pushing an already-debunked conspiracy theory that was also refuted during the congressional impeachment inquiry against him.
During his call to Fox & Friends, Trump further claimed — falsely — that the Democratic National Committee refused to give a server related to a 2016 cyberattack against it to federal investigators, and that CrowdStrike itself is based in Ukraine.
“They gave the server to CrowdStrike or whatever it is called, which is a company owned by a very wealthy Ukrainian,” Trump said during his call to Fox & Friends. “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?”
The regurgitated accusation that California-based cybersecurity company CrowdStrike collaborated with the Democratic Party to falsely accuse Russia of interfering in the 2016 presidential election is part of a baseless conspiracy theory that first appeared in 2017 on notorious far-right site 4chan:
In the years that followed the original 4chan post, at least three different but related conspiracy theories would warp and combine on the fringes of the internet, eventually coalescing around Ukraine’s supposed role in helping Trump’s 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton.
Ukraine wasn’t originally part of the theory, but in July, Trump floated CrowdStrike’s name during a call with the president of Ukraine as just one piece of a convoluted conspiracy accusation. That phone call is now at the center of a congressional investigation and impeachment inquiry into whether the president abused his power for political gain.
In reality, the “very wealthy Ukrainian” Trump referenced — CrowdStrike founder Dmitri Alperovitch — was born in Russia and emigrated to the United States, where he is a naturalized American citizen. The DNC enlisted the company to locate the source of the hack, which it identified as Russian groups: the Internet Research Agency, a private company with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Russian military intelligence.
In pushing the conspiracy theory, Trump also neglected to mention that the Republican National Committee also hired CrowdStrike in 2018, after email addresses for senior National Republican Congressional Committee staff members were targeted in a separate attack.
As the Associated Press reported in November 2019, Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, an ally of the Trump administration, brought the matter up during a House Intelligence Committee impeachment hearing saying that the president was concerned by “indications of Ukrainian election meddling.”
But George P. Kent, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, refuted Nunes’ allegation saying that there was “no factual basis” to the claim, compared to the overwhelming amount evidence of interference from Russian elements.