Impeachment mania continued to dominate the national news this week. Democrats are telling anyone who will listen, “Trump threatened to withhold aid from Ukraine unless the country would agree to investigate the Bidens. He tried to get a foreign power to dig up dirt on his political opponent. Trump is unhinged. He’s vulgar. He’s doing tremendous damage to the country.” Their rhetoric, however, has conspicuously ignored the great white elephant in the room.
None of them have mentioned the “favor” Trump had requested early in his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. After Trump had congratulated Zelensky for his party’s victory in the parliamentary elections, Trump noted that member countries of the EU, especially Germany, were not doing enough to help Ukraine and suggested that Zelensky speak with them about it.
Then Trump abruptly changed the subject. He asked Zelensky for a favor, the only “favor” he asked for on the call. President Trump said:
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.
Clearly, this was a priority for him. Once that topic had been discussed Trump turned to the Bidens. He said:
Good because I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good and he was shut down and that’s really unfair. A lot of people are talking about that, the way they shut your very good prosecutor down and you had some very bad people involved. Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man. He was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the Attorney General. Rudy very much knows what’s happening and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great. The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news so I just want to let you know that. The other thing, There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it… It sounds horrible to me.
One of the most intriguing parts of the Democrats’ reaction to this call was that they ignored Trump’s request for a favor to learn more about CrowdStrike, the American computer security company that performed a forensic examination on the DNC’s server after they claimed they’d been hacked. CrowdStrike determined that the server had been hacked by the Russians and issued a report stating their conclusions.
Oddly, the DNC had refused to allow the FBI or the Department of Homeland Security to conduct their own analysis of the server. The FBI was forced to accept the report from CrowdStrike.
Michael Mukasey, who served as Attorney General for the last two years of the George W. Bush administration, published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal last week. He had noticed another strange thing. On the same day Trump released the transcript of his call with Zelensky, the DOJ issued a press release which said that Trump had never spoken with Attorney General William Barr “about having Ukraine investigate anything relating to former Vice President Biden or his son or asked him to contact Ukraine on this or any other matter.” It also said Barr has had no contact with Ukraine.
In addition, the press release said:
A Department of Justice team led by U.S. Attorney John Durham is separately exploring the extent to which a number of countries, including Ukraine, played a role in the counterintelligence investigation directed at the Trump campaign during the 2016 election. While the Attorney General has yet to contact Ukraine in connection with this investigation, certain Ukrainians who are not members of the government have volunteered information to Mr. Durham, which he is evaluating.
The American Spectator’s George Parry believes the “reference to CrowdStrike indicates that the Justice Department’s investigation of the counterintelligence operation against candidate and president-elect Trump may be hot on the trail of exposing what could well be a seminal lie that the Democratic National Committee’s computer server was hacked by Russian operatives.”
Parry, a former federal and state prosecutor, tells a fascinating story. He starts with the timeline.
June 12, 2016: WikiLeaks announced they had obtained stolen computer files about the Clinton campaign.
June 14, 2016: Two days later, CrowdStrike, which was working for the DNC, announced that it had detected Russian malware on the DNC’s computer server. The next day, a self-described Romanian hacker, Guccifer 2.0, claimed he was a WikiLeaks source and had hacked the DNC’s server. He then posted online DNC computer files that contained metadata that indicated Russian involvement in the hack.
July 22, 2016: WikiLeaks published approximately 20,000 DNC emails on the Friday before the start of the Democratic National Convention.
You may recall the emails showed that the DNC had their thumb on the scale for Hillary Clinton.
After Clinton’s defeat, her public relations director published an op-ed in the Washington Post. She wrote that during the convention, she had tried to “get the press to focus on … the prospect that Russia had not only hacked and stolen emails from the DNC, but that it had done so to help Donald Trump and hurt Hillary.”
The DNC, as mentioned above, had refused access to their server to the FBI and the DHS. What were they hiding?
In July 2017, President Trump received a letter from the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), “an organization of former CIA, FBI, National Security Agency, and military intelligence officers, technical experts, and analysts.” Parry explains:
VIPS has a well-established record of debunking questionable intelligence assessments that have been slanted to serve political purposes. For example, in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, VIPS courageously and correctly challenged the accuracy and veracity of the CIA’s intelligence estimates that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and that he posed a threat to the United States. Similarly, VIPS has condemned the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” on suspected terrorists. In short, VIPS can hardly be described as either a right-wing cabal or a group carrying water for the Republican Party.
In its analysis of the purported DNC hack, VIPS brought to bear the impressive talents of more than a dozen experienced, well-credentialed experts, including William Binney, a former NSA technical director and cofounder of the NSA’s Signals Intelligence Automation Research Center; Edward Loomis, former NSA technical director for the Office of Signals Processing; and Skip Folden, a former IBM information technology manager. As the French would say, these are l’hommes sérieux, as are the other computer-system designers, program architects, and analysts with whom they investigated the Clinton-DNC hack story.
First, VIPS concluded that the DNC data were not hacked by the Russians or anyone else accessing the server over the internet. Instead, the data were downloaded by means of a thumb drive or similar portable storage device physically attached to the DNC server.
How was this determined? The time stamps contained in the released computer files’ metadata establish that, at 6:45 p.m. July 5, 2016, 1,976 megabytes (not megabits) of data were downloaded from the DNC’s server. This took 87 seconds, which means the transfer rate was 22.7 megabytes per second, a speed, according to VIPS, that “is much faster than what is physically possible with a hack.” Such a speed could be accomplished only by direct connection of a portable storage device to the server. Accordingly, VIPS concluded that the DNC data theft was an inside job by someone with physical access to the server.
VIPS also found that, if there had been a hack, the NSA would have a record of it that could quickly be retrieved and produced. But no such evidence has been forthcoming. Can this be because no hack occurred?
Even more remarkable, the experts determined that the files released by Guccifer 2.0 have been “run, via ordinary cut and paste, through a template that effectively immersed them in what could plausibly be cast as Russian fingerprints.” In other words, the files were deliberately altered to give the false impression that they were hacked by Russian agents.
Thanks to the VIPS experts, the Russia-hacking claim — the very prologue of the Trump-Russia conspiracy story — appeared to have been affirmatively and convincingly undercut.
After the DNC denied law enforcement access to its server, the FBI — under James Comey’s leadership — meekly agreed to accept the findings of CrowdStrike, the DNC’s private cybersecurity firm, as to the server’s contents. This was in lieu of the FBI’s using legal process (such as a search warrant or forthwith grand jury subpoena) to seize and search the server for Russian malware and evidence of hacking, even though, in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Comey conceded that “best practices” require “direct access” to the allegedly hacked computers.
In his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee in June 2017, Comey explained, “In the case of the DNC … we did not have access to the devices themselves. We got relevant forensic information from a private party, a high-class entity [CrowdStrike], that had done the work.”
Sen. Richard Burr questioned this. “But no content? Isn’t content an important part of forensics from a counterintelligence standpoint?”
Comey answered, “It is, although what was briefed to me by my folks … is that they had gotten the information from the private party [CrowdStrike] that they needed to understand the intrusion by the spring of 2016.”
The failure of the FBI and the DHS to inspect the DNC’s server looms large in the origination of the Russian collusion story as Parry explained above and it sure looks like Durham’s team thinks so too. It was a pivotal event. So, why really didn’t they insist on examining the server?
Fast forward to March 13, 2019. VIPS submitted a memorandum to William Barr.
They accurately predicted that Mueller would choose to “finesse” the key issue of whether or not the Russians hacked the DNC computers by relying on the purported analysis by “CrowdStrike, a cybersecurity firm of checkered reputation and multiple conflicts of interest, including very close ties to a number of key anti-Russian organizations.”
VIPS stated that “direct access to the actual computers is the first requirement” in any valid forensic analysis. The memorandum then set forth VIPS’ additional analysis of the WikiLeaks DNC files which revealed “a FAT (File Allocation Table) system property. This shows that the data had been transferred to an external storage device, such as a thumb drive, before WikiLeaks posted them” (Emphasis in original).
After explaining in detail the significance of the FAT system property, the memorandum then re-addressed the elephant in the room that the media and investigators were ignoring: “the apparent failure of NSA’s dragnet, collect-it-all approach — including ‘cast-iron’ coverage of WikiLeaks — to provide forensic evidence (as opposed to ‘assessments’) as to how the DNC emails got to WikiLeaks and who sent them.” Further to this point, VIPS posed this critical question:
Is it possible that NSA has not yet been asked to produce the collected packets of DNC email data claimed to have been hacked by Russia? Surely, this should be done before Mueller completes his investigation. NSA has taps on all the transoceanic cables leaving the U.S., and would most certainly have such packets if they exist.
Parry notes that “VIPS proved to be prescient. As with the seemingly feckless Comey, Mueller reported neither a direct access forensic examination of the DNC computers nor a query directed to the NSA for its intercepts of the purportedly hacked files.”
In summary, by denying law enforcement access to its allegedly hacked computers, the DNC conducted itself like a criminal suspect with something to hide. And, in the face of this suspicious behavior, the failure by Comey’s FBI and Team Mueller to conduct a direct access forensic examination of the DNC’s computers or to seek corroboration from the NSA of any hacking strongly suggests that they had no interest in getting to the truth about the Russian hacking story.
It appears that the words “favor, CrowdStrike and server” struck fear in the hearts of Democrats, who had hoped the Mueller report had put that subject to bed. And coming in the conversation as it did, even before any mention of the Bidens, told them it was indeed on the minds of Durham’s team and that they were actively investigating it. For the Democrats, Biden is expendable. Who knows, eliminating Biden from the race may have even been part of their plan given that he is considered moderate compared to the rest of the field. But the DNC’s claim that their server was hacked by the Russians to sway the election to Donald Trump is the root from which their entire narrative sprung. Sean Hannity would say that Durham’s team is “right on top of the target.” Democrats are terrified and they’re striking out in the only way they know how.
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