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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry" (Page 67)

Barr Pushes Facebook for Access to WhatsApp Messages

Westlake Legal Group 03dc-backdoor-facebookJumbo Barr Pushes Facebook for Access to WhatsApp Messages Whistle-Blowers WhatsApp Inc United States Politics and Government Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Terrorism Privacy News Sources, Confidential Status of Justice Department Instant Messaging Facebook Inc Computers and the Internet Computer Security Apple Inc

WASHINGTON — Attorney General William P. Barr is set to press Facebook on Friday to create a so-called back door to its end-to-end encryption on WhatsApp and other messaging platforms, which would give investigators access to now-secret communications, including from terrorists and other criminals as well as whistle-blowers, journalists and others.

Mr. Barr and his British and Australian counterparts were set to send a joint letter to Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook chief executive, arguing that law enforcement needs a way to break encryption to fight terrorism, international organized crime and child exploitations, according to a copy of the letter reviewed by The New York Times that is dated Oct. 4.

With 1.5 billion users, Facebook’s WhatsApp is perhaps the most commonly used encrypted communications platform in the world. Privacy advocates and tech company officials have said that creating a back door will effectively destroy the secrecy of such platforms.

The Justice Department and its counterparts in Australia and Britain have pushed for back doors to other tech platforms but are focusing on Facebook because Mr. Zuckerberg has said that he intends to add end-to-end encryption to all of the company’s platforms, a government official said. BuzzFeed News first reported on Mr. Barr’s letter.

Facebook respects the role of law enforcement but believes people have a right to conduct private conversations online, said Andy Stone, a company spokesman.

“End-to-end encryption already protects the messages of over a billion people every day,” Mr. Stone said. “We strongly oppose government attempts to build back doors because they would undermine the privacy and security of people everywhere.”

The Justice Department has long pushed technology companies to help the government gain access to information on electronic devices. The conflict last came to a head in 2016, when investigators obtained a court order that required Apple to help the F.B.I. unlock an iPhone recovered after the mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., in December 2015.

The F.B.I. ultimately unlocked that phone without the help of Apple, easing tensions for a time with the tech companies.

Mr. Barr, who took office in February, has embraced the Justice Department’s push. In a speech in July, he called on tech companies to stop using advanced encryption that keeps out law enforcement officials.

Mr. Barr was to deliver remarks on Friday at a Justice Department summit on how encryption has stymied the government’s ability to access information, a problem that local and federal law enforcement agencies have coined “going dark.”

The summit, which Facebook representatives will also attend, will focus on the impact of encryption on child exploitation cases. Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, is also speaking and has pushed technology companies to cooperate more with law enforcement investigations.

Encryption not only created a platform for criminals to swap child pornography, but it has also impeded law enforcement officials’ searches for children being used to create pornographic images and videos of sexual assault, the government official said.

The letter highlighted an instance when a man was imprisoned on a conviction of sexually abusing a child starting at age 11 because prosecutors presented as evidence message logs between the man and the child that Facebook had provided.

Tech company officials have said that strong encryption is necessary to protect legitimate users of their platforms, including journalists and government critics.

The encryption on WhatsApp blocks Facebook from accessing the information its users send on the platform, similar to the system used by the Signal messaging service, considered to be one of the most thorough at protecting users’ privacy. Facebook has said it will expand its encryption system to Messenger and its other platforms.

Only platforms that use an encryption system that the company itself cannot break can be protected from hackers, technology company officers said. They said that the back door sought by the Justice Department will fundamentally weaken all encryption.

Even as technology companies move to more robust encryption, Facebook and others have devised methods to detect and remove child exploitative imagery, including one that relies on photo-matching technology. Facebook and WhatsApp are working with other major tech companies to share both information and photo-matching technology, relying on machine learning to ban groups suspected of trafficking in child pornography.

WhatsApp also regularly submits information to law enforcement officials when necessary and bans accounts suspected of or associated with illicit material.

But even with such measures, Facebook can hardly monitor the billions of pieces of content flowing through its encrypted systems every day, which is by design. Mr. Zuckerberg has predicted that such systems will grow increasingly popular as the internet evolves.

“The future of communication will increasingly shift to private, encrypted services where people can be confident what they say to each other stays secure and their messages and content won’t stick around forever,” Mr. Zuckerberg said in a statement this year announcing the changes. “This is the future I hope we will help bring about.”

But government officials disagreed. One said that “back door” was an inaccurate term because it implies a weakness in the encryption technology that hackers and others could also exploit.

In the letter to Facebook, Mr. Barr and the British and Australian officials said law enforcement must be able to unlock encryption systems to access information to “safeguard the public, investigate crimes and prevent future criminal activity.”

“Companies should not deliberately design their systems to preclude any form of access to content even for preventing or investigating the most serious crimes,” they wrote.

In the letter, the governments said they would seek to access Facebook and WhatsApp content only when public safety was at risk. They also said they recognize a right to privacy but that Facebook should be able to provide access if a judge has issued a warrant.

British and Australian officials have also pushed even longer for back doors, stretching back years.

Mr. Barr’s work with Australia and Britain has separately come under scrutiny as he has pressed for both countries’ cooperation with the Justice Department’s review of the origins of the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 United States election.

Julian E. Barnes and Katie Benner reported from Washington, and Mike Isaac from San Francisco.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Barr Pushes Facebook for Access to WhatsApp Messages

Westlake Legal Group 03dc-backdoor-facebookJumbo Barr Pushes Facebook for Access to WhatsApp Messages Whistle-Blowers WhatsApp Inc United States Politics and Government Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Terrorism Privacy News Sources, Confidential Status of Justice Department Instant Messaging Facebook Inc Computers and the Internet Computer Security Apple Inc

WASHINGTON — Attorney General William P. Barr is set to press Facebook on Friday to create a so-called back door to its end-to-end encryption on WhatsApp and other messaging platforms, which would give investigators access to now-secret communications, including from terrorists and other criminals as well as whistle-blowers, journalists and others.

Mr. Barr and his British and Australian counterparts were set to send a joint letter to Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook chief executive, arguing that law enforcement needs a way to break encryption to fight terrorism, international organized crime and child exploitations, according to a copy of the letter reviewed by The New York Times that is dated Oct. 4.

With 1.5 billion users, Facebook’s WhatsApp is perhaps the most commonly used encrypted communications platform in the world. Privacy advocates and tech company officials have said that creating a back door will effectively destroy the secrecy of such platforms.

The Justice Department and its counterparts in Australia and Britain have pushed for back doors to other tech platforms but are focusing on Facebook because Mr. Zuckerberg has said that he intends to add end-to-end encryption to all of the company’s platforms, a government official said. BuzzFeed News first reported on Mr. Barr’s letter.

Facebook respects the role of law enforcement but believes people have a right to conduct private conversations online, said Andy Stone, a company spokesman.

“End-to-end encryption already protects the messages of over a billion people every day,” Mr. Stone said. “We strongly oppose government attempts to build back doors because they would undermine the privacy and security of people everywhere.”

The Justice Department has long pushed technology companies to help the government gain access to information on electronic devices. The conflict last came to a head in 2016, when investigators obtained a court order that required Apple to help the F.B.I. unlock an iPhone recovered after the mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., in December 2015.

The F.B.I. ultimately unlocked that phone without the help of Apple, easing tensions for a time with the tech companies.

Mr. Barr, who took office in February, has embraced the Justice Department’s push. In a speech in July, he called on tech companies to stop using advanced encryption that keeps out law enforcement officials.

Mr. Barr was to deliver remarks on Friday at a Justice Department summit on how encryption has stymied the government’s ability to access information, a problem that local and federal law enforcement agencies have coined “going dark.”

The summit, which Facebook representatives will also attend, will focus on the impact of encryption on child exploitation cases. Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, is also speaking and has pushed technology companies to cooperate more with law enforcement investigations.

Encryption not only created a platform for criminals to swap child pornography, but it has also impeded law enforcement officials’ searches for children being used to create pornographic images and videos of sexual assault, the government official said.

The letter highlighted an instance when a man was imprisoned on a conviction of sexually abusing a child starting at age 11 because prosecutors presented as evidence message logs between the man and the child that Facebook had provided.

Tech company officials have said that strong encryption is necessary to protect legitimate users of their platforms, including journalists and government critics.

The encryption on WhatsApp blocks Facebook from accessing the information its users send on the platform, similar to the system used by the Signal messaging service, considered to be one of the most thorough at protecting users’ privacy. Facebook has said it will expand its encryption system to Messenger and its other platforms.

Only platforms that use an encryption system that the company itself cannot break can be protected from hackers, technology company officers said. They said that the back door sought by the Justice Department will fundamentally weaken all encryption.

Even as technology companies move to more robust encryption, Facebook and others have devised methods to detect and remove child exploitative imagery, including one that relies on photo-matching technology. Facebook and WhatsApp are working with other major tech companies to share both information and photo-matching technology, relying on machine learning to ban groups suspected of trafficking in child pornography.

WhatsApp also regularly submits information to law enforcement officials when necessary and bans accounts suspected of or associated with illicit material.

But even with such measures, Facebook can hardly monitor the billions of pieces of content flowing through its encrypted systems every day, which is by design. Mr. Zuckerberg has predicted that such systems will grow increasingly popular as the internet evolves.

“The future of communication will increasingly shift to private, encrypted services where people can be confident what they say to each other stays secure and their messages and content won’t stick around forever,” Mr. Zuckerberg said in a statement this year announcing the changes. “This is the future I hope we will help bring about.”

But government officials disagreed. One said that “back door” was an inaccurate term because it implies a weakness in the encryption technology that hackers and others could also exploit.

In the letter to Facebook, Mr. Barr and the British and Australian officials said law enforcement must be able to unlock encryption systems to access information to “safeguard the public, investigate crimes and prevent future criminal activity.”

“Companies should not deliberately design their systems to preclude any form of access to content even for preventing or investigating the most serious crimes,” they wrote.

In the letter, the governments said they would seek to access Facebook and WhatsApp content only when public safety was at risk. They also said they recognize a right to privacy but that Facebook should be able to provide access if a judge has issued a warrant.

British and Australian officials have also pushed even longer for back doors, stretching back years.

Mr. Barr’s work with Australia and Britain has separately come under scrutiny as he has pressed for both countries’ cooperation with the Justice Department’s review of the origins of the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 United States election.

Julian E. Barnes and Katie Benner reported from Washington, and Mike Isaac from San Francisco.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

How a Fringe Theory About CrowdStrike Took Root in the White House

In an April 2017 interview with The Associated Press, President Trump suddenly began talking about the hack of the Democratic National Committee a year earlier, complaining that the F.B.I. had not physically examined the compromised server.

“They brought in another company that I hear is Ukrainian-based,” the president said.

“CrowdStrike?” the surprised reporter asked, referring to the California cybersecurity company that investigated how Russian government hackers had stolen and leaked Democratic emails, disrupting Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

“That’s what I heard,” Mr. Trump resumed. “I heard it’s owned by a very rich Ukrainian; that’s what I heard.”

More than two years later, Mr. Trump was still holding on to this false conspiracy theory. In his July call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, he summed it up in a sort of shorthand — at least according to the White House memorandum, labeled “not a verbatim transcript.”

“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 president said. It is unclear whether the ellipses indicate that words were omitted or that Mr. Trump’s voice was trailing off.

Then he added one novel detail: “The server, they say Ukraine has it.”

Now, Mr. Trump’s call for Ukraine to look into his CrowdStrike story forms the background to the House impeachment inquiry, which is focused on the second request he made: that Mr. Zelensky investigate Mr. Trump’s possible 2020 opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. Mr. Trump has placed a concoction of disprovable claims, of the kind usually found on the fringes of the web, squarely in the middle of American politics and diplomacy.

The tale of the supposedly hidden server may have appealed to Mr. Trump because it undercut a well-established fact that he has resented and resisted for three years: The Russian government interfered in the 2016 election to help him win, an effort thoroughly documented by American intelligence agencies and amply supported by public evidence.

By contrast, there is no evidence to support the president’s vague suggestion that Ukraine, not Russia, might be responsible for the hacking, or that CrowdStrike somehow connived in it. But his alternate history has provided a psychological shield for the president against facts that he believes tarnish his electoral victory.

Mr. Trump has long called for better relations with Vladimir V. Putin’s Russia and brushed aside complaints about its conduct. So there is a certain symmetry to his suggestion that Ukraine, Russia’s opponent and the victim of its territorial grab, may somehow have framed Russia for the 2016 election activity.

“Ukraine is the perfect scapegoat for him, because it’s the enemy of Russia,” said Nina Jankowicz, a fellow at the Wilson Center in Washington who regularly visits Ukraine and is writing a book called “How to Lose the Information War.”

She noted that a number of Ukraine-linked stories, some of them distorted or exaggerated, have been pulled together by Mr. Trump’s supporters into a single narrative.

For example, there is the idea, promoted by the president’s lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, that Ukraine’s government actively sabotaged Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign. A Ukrainian-American lawyer who consulted for the D.N.C. looked into the finances of Paul Manafort and spoke with Ukrainian embassy officials. But there appears to have been no organized Ukrainian government effort to intervene — certainly nothing comparable to the activities of Russian intelligence agencies ordered by Mr. Putin.

It is true that a Ukrainian legislator helped publicize documents on Mr. Manafort’s multimillion-dollar payments from a Ukrainian political party, leading to his resignation as Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman. But the claim of Mr. Manafort’s wrongdoing turned out to be justified. He is now serving seven and a half years in prison for financial fraud and other crimes.

In May, Mr. Trump recalled the American ambassador to Kiev, Marie L. Yovanovitch, appointed by President Barack Obama in 2016, telling others she was scheming against his administration. She has denied it.

And Mr. Trump has repeatedly charged that Mr. Biden, who handled Ukrainian affairs as vice president, tried to get a prosecutor fired for investigating a Ukrainian energy company that paid his son, Hunter, handsomely as a board member despite a lack of experience in Ukraine. In fact, multiple countries were pressing for the firing of the prosecutor, who they thought was turning a blind eye to corruption.

“Now it seems like all of these conspiracy theories are merging into one,” Ms. Jankowicz said. She studies disinformation, she said, but Mr. Trump produced one claim she’d never come across.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_161614164_ab1b1ada-cb55-4a9c-8ffb-6c95b22c2b1e-articleLarge How a Fringe Theory About CrowdStrike Took Root in the White House Zelensky, Volodymyr Yovanovitch, Marie L United States Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Russia Rumors and Misinformation Reddit Inc Presidential Election of 2016 Mueller, Robert S III Giuliani, Rudolph W Federal Bureau of Investigation Facebook Inc Democratic Party democratic national committee Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Cyberwarfare and Defense CrowdStrike Inc Clinton, Hillary Rodham Biden, Joseph R Jr Biden, Hunter Atlantic Council 4chan

The Democratic National Committee’s servers came under attack by Russian hackers in 2016.CreditPaul Holston/Associated Press

“I do this for a living, and I’d never heard anyone say the servers were in Ukraine,” she said.

In the 27 months between Mr. Trump’s two citations of the CrowdStrike-Ukraine conspiracy theory, it has survived despite many denials from CrowdStrike, the F.B.I. and people directly involved in the investigations. It has survived despite the fact that the D.N.C. put one of its hacked servers on display — not in Ukraine but in its Washington offices beside the filing cabinet pried open in 1972 by the Watergate burglars (and a photo of the two artifacts ran on The Times’s front page). It has survived despite the indictment prepared last year by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, laying out in extraordinary detail the actions of 12 named Russian military intelligence officers who hacked the D.N.C. and other election targets.

The speculation springs from what Mr. Trump has called a “big Dem scam” — the false notion that the F.B.I. never really investigated the D.N.C. hack. In fact, according to people directly involved, CrowdStrike was in regular contact with the bureau in spring 2016 as it examined dozens of servers used by both the D.N.C. and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

It is true, as Mr. Trump has often tweeted, that F.B.I. agents never took physical possession of the Democrats’ servers. But CrowdStrike supplied the F.B.I. with digital copies of the servers so that the bureau could assess the Russian malware infecting them. The Mueller investigation later confirmed CrowdStrike’s findings.

Still, the president has clung to the theory linking CrowdStrike, Ukraine and the D.N.C. servers despite the repeated efforts of his aides to dissuade him, Thomas Bossert, his former homeland security adviser, said on Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “The D.N.C. server and that conspiracy theory has got to go,” he said. “If he continues to focus on that white whale, it’s going to bring him down.”

To go in search of the roots of Mr. Trump’s CrowdStrike-Ukraine conspiracy theory is to travel the internet’s most peculiar provinces and the darkest threads on Twitter and Facebook. On 4chan and pro-Trump spaces on Reddit, on websites like ZeroHedge.com and Washington’s Blog, you can find plenty of speculation about evil manipulation by CrowdStrike and secret maneuvers by Ukrainians — often inflamed by Mr. Trump’s own statements.

Until the president’s statements, however, even internet speculation did not attribute CrowdStrike’s ownership to a rich Ukrainian or suggest that the D.N.C. servers were hidden in Ukraine.

George Eliason, an American journalist who lives in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists fought Ukrainian forces, has written extensively about what he considers to be a “coup attempt” against President Trump involving American and Ukrainian intelligence agencies and CrowdStrike. He said he did not know if his writings for obscure websites might have influenced the president.

“CrowdStrike and Ukrainian Intel are working hand in glove,” he wrote in an email. “Is Ukrainian Intelligence trying to invent a reason for the U.S. to take a hardline stance against Russia? Are they using CrowdStrike to carry this out?”

Mr. Eliason and other purveyors of Ukraine conspiracies often point to the Atlantic Council, a research group in Washington, as the locus of the schemes. The Ukrainian oligarch Viktor Pinchuk has made donations to the council and serves on its international advisory board; Dmitri Alperovitch, CrowdStrike’s co-founder, who was born in Russia and came to the United States as a child, is an Atlantic Council senior fellow.

That connection seems slender, but it may be the origin of Mr. Trump’s association of a wealthy Ukrainian with CrowdStrike.

Pro-Trump media leaped last week to defend the president’s Ukraine theories. Rush Limbaugh said on his radio show that Mr. Trump’s “reference to CrowdStrike, mark my words, is momentous,” though he did not say why.

And Russian state news outlets are always ready to cheer on Mr. Trump’s efforts to point the blame for the 2016 hack away from Moscow. On Sept. 25, after the White House released its memo on the Zelensky call, Russia’s Sputnik news website ran a story supporting Mr. Trump’s remarks.

The Sputnik article cited Mr. Eliason’s writings and suggested that CrowdStrike might have framed Russia for the D.N.C. hack — if it occurred at all. It quoted a Twitter account called “The Last Refuge” declaring: “The D.N.C. servers were never hacked.”

All this mythmaking about the 2016 hack frustrates Robert Johnston, who was the lead investigator for CrowdStrike on the D.N.C. inquiry. Mr. Johnston, a former Marine and Cyber Command operator, said he could make no sense of Mr. Trump’s assertions.

“It doesn’t connect with anything in my experience,” he said. “I’d be interested in the president of Ukraine’s impression.”

Mr. Johnston, now chief executive of the cybersecurity company Adlumin, said he was weary of the conspiracies surrounding what he considered a straightforward conclusion. Having seen the digital fingerprints of Russian intelligence in earlier hacking cases, he felt there was little doubt about the identity of the perpetrators.

“I don’t know how you get to this point,” Mr. Johnston said of the fantasies Mr. Trump has promoted. “This is a story that just won’t die.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

The CrowdStrike Plot: How a Fringe Theory Took Root in the White House

In an April 2017 interview with The Associated Press, President Trump suddenly began talking about the hack of the Democratic National Committee a year earlier, complaining that the F.B.I. had not physically examined the compromised server.

“They brought in another company that I hear is Ukrainian-based,” the president said.

“CrowdStrike?” the surprised reporter asked, referring to the California cybersecurity company that investigated how Russian government hackers had stolen and leaked Democratic emails, disrupting Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

“That’s what I heard,” Mr. Trump resumed. “I heard it’s owned by a very rich Ukrainian; that’s what I heard.”

More than two years later, Mr. Trump was still holding on to this false conspiracy theory. In his July call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, he summed it up in a sort of shorthand — at least according to the White House memorandum, labeled “not a verbatim transcript.”

“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 president said. It is unclear whether the ellipses indicate that words were omitted or that Mr. Trump’s voice was trailing off.

Then he added one novel detail: “The server, they say Ukraine has it.”

Now, Mr. Trump’s call for Ukraine to look into his CrowdStrike story forms the background to the House impeachment inquiry, which is focused on the second request he made: that Mr. Zelensky investigate Mr. Trump’s possible 2020 opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. Mr. Trump has placed a concoction of disprovable claims, of the kind usually found on the fringes of the web, squarely in the middle of American politics and diplomacy.

The tale of the supposedly hidden server may have appealed to Mr. Trump because it undercut a well-established fact that he has resented and resisted for three years: The Russian government interfered in the 2016 election to help him win, an effort thoroughly documented by American intelligence agencies and amply supported by public evidence.

By contrast, there is no evidence to support the president’s vague suggestion that Ukraine, not Russia, might be responsible for the hacking, or that CrowdStrike somehow connived in it. But his alternate history has provided a psychological shield for the president against facts that he believes tarnish his electoral victory.

Mr. Trump has long called for better relations with Vladimir V. Putin’s Russia and brushed aside complaints about its conduct. So there is a certain symmetry to his suggestion that Ukraine, Russia’s opponent and the victim of its territorial grab, may somehow have framed Russia for the 2016 election activity.

“Ukraine is the perfect scapegoat for him, because it’s the enemy of Russia,” said Nina Jankowicz, a fellow at the Wilson Center in Washington who regularly visits Ukraine and is writing a book called “How to Lose the Information War.”

She noted that a number of Ukraine-linked stories, some of them distorted or exaggerated, have been pulled together by Mr. Trump’s supporters into a single narrative.

For example, there is the idea, promoted by the president’s lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, that Ukraine’s government actively sabotaged Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign. A Ukrainian-American lawyer who consulted for the D.N.C. looked into the finances of Paul Manafort and spoke with Ukrainian embassy officials. But there appears to have been no organized Ukrainian government effort to intervene — certainly nothing comparable to the activities of Russian intelligence agencies ordered by Mr. Putin.

It is true that a Ukrainian legislator helped publicize documents on Mr. Manafort’s multimillion-dollar payments from a Ukrainian political party, leading to his resignation as Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman. But the claim of Mr. Manafort’s wrongdoing turned out to be justified. He is now serving seven and a half years in prison for financial fraud and other crimes.

In May, Mr. Trump recalled the American ambassador to Kiev, Marie L. Yovanovitch, appointed by President Barack Obama in 2016, telling others she was scheming against his administration. She has denied it.

And Mr. Trump has repeatedly charged that Mr. Biden, who handled Ukrainian affairs as vice president, tried to get a prosecutor fired for investigating a Ukrainian energy company that paid his son, Hunter, handsomely as a board member despite a lack of experience in Ukraine. In fact, multiple countries were pressing for the firing of the prosecutor, who they thought was turning a blind eye to corruption.

“Now it seems like all of these conspiracy theories are merging into one,” Ms. Jankowicz said. She studies disinformation, she said, but Mr. Trump produced one claim she’d never come across.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_161614164_ab1b1ada-cb55-4a9c-8ffb-6c95b22c2b1e-articleLarge The CrowdStrike Plot: How a Fringe Theory Took Root in the White House Zelensky, Volodymyr Yovanovitch, Marie L United States Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Russia Rumors and Misinformation Reddit Inc Presidential Election of 2016 Mueller, Robert S III Giuliani, Rudolph W Federal Bureau of Investigation Facebook Inc Democratic Party democratic national committee Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Cyberwarfare and Defense CrowdStrike Inc Clinton, Hillary Rodham Biden, Joseph R Jr Biden, Hunter Atlantic Council 4chan

The Democratic National Committee’s servers came under attack by Russian hackers in 2016.CreditPaul Holston/Associated Press

“I do this for a living, and I’d never heard anyone say the servers were in Ukraine,” she said.

In the 27 months between Mr. Trump’s two citations of the CrowdStrike-Ukraine conspiracy theory, it has survived despite many denials from CrowdStrike, the F.B.I. and people directly involved in the investigations. It has survived despite the fact that the D.N.C. put one of its hacked servers on display — not in Ukraine but in its Washington offices beside the filing cabinet pried open in 1972 by the Watergate burglars (and a photo of the two artifacts ran on The Times’s front page). It has survived despite the indictment prepared last year by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, laying out in extraordinary detail the actions of 12 named Russian military intelligence officers who hacked the D.N.C. and other election targets.

The speculation springs from what Mr. Trump has called a “big Dem scam” — the false notion that the F.B.I. never really investigated the D.N.C. hack. In fact, according to people directly involved, CrowdStrike was in regular contact with the bureau in spring 2016 as it examined dozens of servers used by both the D.N.C. and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

It is true, as Mr. Trump has often tweeted, that F.B.I. agents never took physical possession of the Democrats’ servers. But CrowdStrike supplied the F.B.I. with digital copies of the servers so that the bureau could assess the Russian malware infecting them. The Mueller investigation later confirmed CrowdStrike’s findings.

Still, the president has clung to the theory linking CrowdStrike, Ukraine and the D.N.C. servers despite the repeated efforts of his aides to dissuade him, Thomas Bossert, his former homeland security adviser, said on Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “The D.N.C. server and that conspiracy theory has got to go,” he said. “If he continues to focus on that white whale, it’s going to bring him down.”

To go in search of the roots of Mr. Trump’s CrowdStrike-Ukraine conspiracy theory is to travel the internet’s most peculiar provinces and the darkest threads on Twitter and Facebook. On 4chan and pro-Trump spaces on Reddit, on websites like ZeroHedge.com and Washington’s Blog, you can find plenty of speculation about evil manipulation by CrowdStrike and secret maneuvers by Ukrainians — often inflamed by Mr. Trump’s own statements.

Until the president’s statements, however, even internet speculation did not attribute CrowdStrike’s ownership to a rich Ukrainian or suggest that the D.N.C. servers were hidden in Ukraine.

George Eliason, an American journalist who lives in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists fought Ukrainian forces, has written extensively about what he considers to be a “coup attempt” against President Trump involving American and Ukrainian intelligence agencies and CrowdStrike. He said he did not know if his writings for obscure websites might have influenced the president.

“CrowdStrike and Ukrainian Intel are working hand in glove,” he wrote in an email. “Is Ukrainian Intelligence trying to invent a reason for the U.S. to take a hardline stance against Russia? Are they using CrowdStrike to carry this out?”

Mr. Eliason and other purveyors of Ukraine conspiracies often point to the Atlantic Council, a research group in Washington, as the locus of the schemes. The Ukrainian oligarch Viktor Pinchuk has made donations to the council and serves on its international advisory board; Dmitri Alperovitch, CrowdStrike’s co-founder, who was born in Russia and came to the United States as a child, is an Atlantic Council senior fellow.

That connection seems slender, but it may be the origin of Mr. Trump’s association of a wealthy Ukrainian with CrowdStrike.

Pro-Trump media leaped last week to defend the president’s Ukraine theories. Rush Limbaugh said on his radio show that Mr. Trump’s “reference to CrowdStrike, mark my words, is momentous,” though he did not say why.

And Russian state news outlets are always ready to cheer on Mr. Trump’s efforts to point the blame for the 2016 hack away from Moscow. On Sept. 25, after the White House released its memo on the Zelensky call, Russia’s Sputnik news website ran a story supporting Mr. Trump’s remarks.

The Sputnik article cited Mr. Eliason’s writings and suggested that CrowdStrike might have framed Russia for the D.N.C. hack — if it occurred at all. It quoted a Twitter account called “The Last Refuge” declaring: “The D.N.C. servers were never hacked.”

All this mythmaking about the 2016 hack frustrates Robert Johnston, who was the lead investigator for CrowdStrike on the D.N.C. inquiry. Mr. Johnston, a former Marine and Cyber Command operator, said he could make no sense of Mr. Trump’s assertions.

“It doesn’t connect with anything in my experience,” he said. “I’d be interested in the president of Ukraine’s impression.”

Mr. Johnston, now chief executive of the cybersecurity company Adlumin, said he was weary of the conspiracies surrounding what he considered a straightforward conclusion. Having seen the digital fingerprints of Russian intelligence in earlier hacking cases, he felt there was little doubt about the identity of the perpetrators.

“I don’t know how you get to this point,” Mr. Johnston said of the fantasies Mr. Trump has promoted. “This is a story that just won’t die.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

House Investigators Question Kurt Volker, First Impeachment Witness

WASHINGTON — House investigators on Thursday privately questioned Kurt D. Volker, the State Department’s former special envoy for Ukraine, interviewing the first witness in their growing impeachment inquiry into whether President Trump tried to bend American policy for his own political benefit.

Mr. Volker, a former ambassador to NATO, has not been accused of directly taking part in Mr. Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate a leading political rival. But he appears to have been caught up in efforts by the president and his lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, to enlist Ukrainian leaders to unearth damaging information about former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and other Democrats.

Mr. Volker’s name appears several times in an anonymous C.I.A. whistle-blower complaint that set off the impeachment inquiry, and Mr. Giuliani has said publicly he briefed Mr. Volker on his efforts. The complaint centers on a July call Mr. Trump had with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, in which he pressed him to investigate Mr. Biden, and asserts that Mr. Volker advised the Ukrainians on how to “navigate” Mr. Trump’s demands.

Investigators for the House Intelligence Committee want to know what Mr. Volker knew, and when, about Mr. Giuliani’s work in Ukraine, the president’s decision to withhold $391 million in security assistance from the country at the same time he was pressing for the investigations of Democrats, and the Trump administration’s decision to recall Marie L. Yovanovitch, the former United States ambassador to Ukraine who was targeted by the president and Mr. Giuliani for ostensibly being insufficiently loyal.

Another key avenue of inquiry for investigators on Thursday is likely to be the American delegation that visited Kiev for Mr. Zelensky’s inauguration, which included Mr. Volker; Gordon Sondland, the American ambassador to the European Union; Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin; and Rick Perry, the energy secretary. House investigators were expected to ask questions about the message the officials delivered to the new government.

The interview, which Mr. Volker participated in voluntarily, was expected to last several hours out of public view. Before he arrived, Mr. Volker provided the House with more than 60 pages of documents, mostly text messages, related to his work at the State Department, according to a congressional official familiar with the investigation, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the ongoing inquiry.

Mr. Volker resigned on Friday from his part-time, unpaid State Department post without public explanation. A person familiar with his thinking said the longtime diplomat concluded he could no longer be effective in the post in light of the unfolding scandal. But the resignation also freed him to appear before the House investigators without restrictions, according to people familiar with his account.

As special envoy for Ukraine, Mr. Volker was near the heart of the administration’s diplomacy with the country. But, he has told colleagues, he was not involved in the pressure campaign, and was only trying to prod the new president to stick to his campaign promises of fighting corruption, people familiar with his account said.

Mr. Volker has also told friends and colleagues that he believed that the Trump administration was withholding the aid to Ukraine because of generalized concerns about corruption, rather than to force a specific investigation of the Biden family, according to a person familiar with his account.

But Mr. Volker did know about Mr. Giuliani’s interest in having the Ukrainians investigate Mr. Biden, the person said. The two discussed it at a meeting that Mr. Giuliani has said took place in July, according to people familiar with his account. At that meeting, intended to pave the way for a meeting with the Ukrainians, Mr. Volker told Mr. Giuliani he believed the allegations against the Bidens were baseless, according to a person briefed on the conversation. But Mr. Volker did not disagree with Mr. Giuliani’s contention that there was corruption in Ukraine, and that some in the country wanted to try to influence Mr. Biden through his son.

Mr. Giuliani did not argue the point with Mr. Volker, but said he wanted the Ukrainian government to investigate if Ukrainian citizens had violated their laws. Mr. Volker said that was what the government was supposed to do. At the end of the meeting, Mr. Volker put Mr. Giuliani in touch with Andriy Yermak, the new Ukrainian president’s adviser, according to people familiar with his account.

The whistle-blower’s complaint says that a day after Mr. Trump spoke with Mr. Zelensky in July, Mr. Volker and Mr. Sondland met with Mr. Zelensky and other political figures in person. The whistle-blower said that multiple American officials told him the two Americans gave “advice” to the Ukrainians “about how to navigate the demands that the president had made of Mr. Zelensky.”

The complaint also says that the two men had tried to “contain the damage” to American national security posed by the scheme.

Mr. Volker was expected to testify that he did not know why the aid had been frozen at the time of that conversation. While he had pushed for a call between Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky, Mr. Volker had no early warning that the July 25 call had been scheduled.

Even before the first deposition began, Republicans were raising complaints about the fairness of the investigative process. Representative Michael T. McCaul of Texas, the top Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote to its chairman on Wednesday protesting that committee staff would not be allowed to ask questions during the depositions and that Republicans had been given fewer slots than Democrats. Democrats said Mr. McCaul’s complaint about partisan parity was unfounded, and that Republicans and Democrats would be represented Thursday in equal numbers.

But Republicans were demanding other answers about the fast-unfolding inquiry, highlighting some of the murkiness of Democrats’ intentions.

Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the top House Republican, wrote to Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday requesting she “suspend” the impeachment investigation “until transparent and equitable rules and procedures are established to govern the inquiry, as is customary.”

Democrats are deviating from recent historical precedent for presidential impeachment proceedings. When the House conducted impeachment inquiries of Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton, the full chamber held votes to authorize the inquiries. And the majority party established rules meant to clearly govern their work and give the president substantial due process.

This time, Ms. Pelosi and her team believe no House vote is necessary and do not intend to take one. And they have said little publicly about how they expect the investigation to play out, or what procedures will govern it. Mr. McCarthy demanded she offer an outline, and said that any deviation from past precedent would be unfair to the president and would “create a process completely devoid of any merit or legitimacy.”

For now, though, Democrats are pushing forward with haste, issuing near-daily requests or subpoenas for documentary evidence and witness testimony.

The session with Mr. Volker is expected to be the first in a fast-paced series of interviews in the coming weeks, when Democrats aim to bring a parade of witnesses behind closed doors for questioning. Ms. Yovanovitch is expected to appear next week.

Other State Department diplomats, including Mr. Sondland, and associates of Mr. Giuliani’s are scheduled to participate, as well, but it remains to be seen whether they will appear voluntarily. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the committee this week that its requests were inappropriately aggressive and untenable.

First, though, the Intelligence Committee will privately debrief the intelligence community’s inspector general, Michael Atkinson, on Friday. Mr. Atkinson met with the panel once before, but he was barred from discussing a preliminary investigation he conducted to determine the credibility of the whistle-blower complaint. Now, lawmakers expect him to provide a list of which administration officials he interviewed before ultimately deeming the complaint “credible.”

‘We’re Not Fooling Around’: House Democrats Vow to Subpoena White House

Oct. 2, 2019

Westlake Legal Group 02dc-impeach-promo2-threeByTwoSmallAt2X House Investigators Question Kurt Volker, First Impeachment Witness Yovanovitch, Marie L Volker, Kurt D United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry State Department Pompeo, Mike Pelosi, Nancy impeachment
Kurt Volker, Trump’s Envoy for Ukraine, Resigns

Sept. 27, 2019

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White House Tried to ‘Lock Down’ Ukraine Call Records, Whistle-Blower Says

Sept. 26, 2019

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House Investigators Question First Impeachment Witness

WASHINGTON — House investigators on Thursday privately questioned Kurt D. Volker, the State Department’s former special envoy for Ukraine, interviewing the first witness in their growing impeachment inquiry into whether President Trump tried to bend American policy for his own political benefit.

Mr. Volker, a former ambassador to NATO, has not been accused of directly taking part in Mr. Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate a leading political rival. But he appears to have been caught up in efforts by the president and his lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, to enlist Ukrainian leaders to unearth damaging information about former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and other Democrats.

Mr. Volker’s name appears several times in an anonymous C.I.A. whistle-blower complaint that set off the impeachment inquiry, and Mr. Giuliani has said publicly he briefed Mr. Volker on his efforts. The complaint centers on a July call Mr. Trump had with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, in which he pressed him to investigate Mr. Biden, and asserts that Mr. Volker advised the Ukranians on how to “navigate” Mr. Trump’s demands.

Investigators for the House Intelligence Committee want to know what Mr. Volker knew, and when, about Mr. Giuliani’s work in Ukraine, the president’s decision to withhold $391 million in security assistance from the country at the same time he was pressing for the investigations of Democrats, and the Trump administration’s decision to recall Marie L. Yovanovitch, the former United States ambassador to Ukraine who was targeted by the president and Mr. Giuliani for ostensibly being insufficiently loyal.

Another key avenue of inquiry for investigators on Thursday is likely to be the American delegation that visited Kiev for Mr. Zelensky’s inauguration, which included Mr. Volker, Gordon Sondland, the American ambassador to the European Union; Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin; and Rick Perry, the energy secretary. House investigators were expected to ask questions about the message the officials delivered to the new government.

The interview, which Mr. Volker participated in voluntarily, was expected to last several hours out of public view. Before he arrived, Mr. Volker provided the House with more than 60 pages of documents, mostly text messages, related to his work at the State Department, according to a congressional official familiar with the investigation, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the ongoing inquiry.

Mr. Volker resigned on Friday from his part-time, unpaid State Department post without public explanation. A person familiar with his thinking said the longtime diplomat concluded he could not longer be effective in the post in light of the unfolding scandal. But the resignation also freed him to appear before the House investigators without restrictions, according to people familiar with his account.

As special envoy for Ukraine, Mr. Volker was near the heart of the administration’s diplomacy with the country. But, he has told colleagues, he was not involved in the pressure campaign, and was only trying to prod the new president to stick to his campaign promises of fighting corruption, people familiar with his account said.

Mr. Volker has also told friends and colleagues that he believed that the Trump administration was withholding the aid to Ukraine because of generalized concerns about corruption, rather than to force a specific investigation of the Biden family, according to a person familiar with his account.

But Mr. Volker did know about Mr. Giuliani’s interest in having the Ukrainians investigate Mr. Biden, the person said. The two discussed it at a meeting that Mr. Giuliani has said took place in July, according to people familiar with his account. At that meeting, intended to pave the way for a meeting with the Ukrainians, Mr. Volker told Mr. Giuliani he believed the allegations against the Bidens were baseless, according to a person briefed on the conversation. But Mr. Volker did not disagree with Mr. Giuliani’s contention that there was corruption in Ukraine, and that some in the country wanted to try to influence Mr. Biden through his son.

Mr. Giuliani did not argue the point with Mr. Volker, but said he wanted the Ukrainian government to investigate if Ukrainian citizens had violated their laws. Mr. Volker said that was what the government was supposed to do. At the end of the meeting, Mr. Volker put Mr. Giuliani in touch with Andriy Yermak, the new Ukrainianpresident’s adviser, according to people familiar with his account.

The whistle-blower’s complaint says that a day after Mr. Trump spoke with Mr. Zelensky in July, Mr. Volker and Mr. Sondland met with Mr. Zelensky and other political figures in person. The whistle-blower said that multiple American officials told him the two Americans gave “advice” to the Ukrainians “about how to navigate the demands that the president had made of Mr. Zelensky.”

It also says that the two men had tried to “contain the damage” to American national security posed by the scheme.

Mr. Volker was expected to testify that he did not know why the aid had been frozen at the time of that conversation. While he had pushed for a call between Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky, Mr. Volker had no early warning that the July 25 call had been scheduled.

Even before the first deposition began, Republicans were raising complaints about the fairness of the investigative process. Representative Michael T. McCaul of Texas, the top Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote to its chairman on Wednesday protesting that committee staff would not be allowed to ask questions during the depositions and that Republicans had been given fewer slots than Democrats. Democrats said Mr. McCaul’s complaint about partisan parity was unfounded, and that Republicans and Democrats would be represented Thursday in equal numbers.

But Republicans were demanding other answers about the fast-unfolding inquiry, highlighting some of the murkiness of Democrats’ intentions.

Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the top House Republican, wrote to Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday requesting she “suspend” the impeachment investigation “until transparent and equitable rules and procedures are established to govern the inquiry, as is customary.”

Democrats are deviating from recent historical precedent for presidential impeachment proceedings. When the House conducted impeachment inquiries of Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton, the full chamber held votes to authorize the inquiries. And the majority party established rules meant to clearly govern their work and give the president substantial due process.

This time, Ms. Pelosi and her team believe no House vote is necessary and do not intend to take one. And they have said little publicly about how they expect the investigation to play out, or what procedures will govern it. Mr. McCarthy demanded she offer an outline, and said that any deviation from past precedent would be unfair to the president and would “create a process completely devoid of any merit or legitimacy.”

For now, though, Democrats are pushing forward with haste, issuing near-daily requests or subpoenas for documentary evidence and witness testimony.

The session with Mr. Volker is expected to be the first in a fast-paced series of interviews in the coming weeks, when Democrats aim to bring a parade of witnesses behind closed doors for questioning. Ms. Yovanovitch is expected to appear next week.

Other State Department diplomats, including Mr. Sondland, and associates of Mr. Giuliani’s are scheduled to participate, as well, but it remains to be seen whether they will appear voluntarily. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the committee this week that its requests were inappropriately aggressive and untenable.

First, though, the Intelligence Committee will privately debrief the intelligence community’s inspector general, Michael Atkinson, on Friday. Mr. Atkinson met with the panel once before, but he was barred from discussing a preliminary investigation he conducted to determine the credibility of the whistle-blower complaint. Now, lawmakers expect him to provide a list of which administration officials he interviewed before ultimately deeming the complaint “credible.”

‘We’re Not Fooling Around’: House Democrats Vow to Subpoena White House

Oct. 2, 2019

Westlake Legal Group 02dc-impeach-promo2-threeByTwoSmallAt2X House Investigators Question First Impeachment Witness Yovanovitch, Marie L Volker, Kurt D United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry State Department Pompeo, Mike Pelosi, Nancy impeachment
Kurt Volker, Trump’s Envoy for Ukraine, Resigns

Sept. 27, 2019

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White House Tried to ‘Lock Down’ Ukraine Call Records, Whistle-Blower Says

Sept. 26, 2019

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Trump Publicly Urges China to Investigate the Bidens

Westlake Legal Group 03dc-prexy-promo-facebookJumbo Trump Publicly Urges China to Investigate the Bidens Xi Jinping United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry impeachment Biden, Joseph R Jr

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Thursday publicly called on China to investigate a political rival, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., in an extraordinary presidential request to a foreign country for help that could benefit him in the 2020 election.

“China should start an investigation into the Bidens,” Mr. Trump said Thursday as he left the White House to travel to Florida where he was expected to announce an executive order on Medicare.

The call for China to investigate Mr. Biden and his son Hunter’s business dealings there came as the first witness appeared on Capitol Hill to be interviewed by House investigators as part of an impeachment inquiry into the president’s request in a phone call for help from President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine.

Mr. Trump has defended his conversation with Mr. Zelensky as “perfect” even after a reconstructed transcript of the call was released that showed him seeking help from Ukraine in investigating the Bidens. And he doubled down on his request on Thursday.

“I would say that President Zelensky, if it were me, I would recommend that they start an investigation into the Bidens,” Mr. Trump said. “Because nobody has any doubt that they weren’t crooked.”

These requests, which critics argue are an abuse of presidential power, echo comments Mr. Trump made as a presidential candidate in 2016 for Russia to release missing emails of his political opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Trump made the comments about China ahead of the latest round of trade talks, which are set to take place next week.

“We’re going to have a meeting with them, we’ll see,” Mr. Trump said of the talks. “I have a lot of options on China. But if they don’t do what we want, we have tremendous power.”

In calling for China to investigate the Bidens, Mr. Trump referred to a business deal Hunter Biden was in that involved a fund drawing from investment from the Chinese government-owned Bank of China.

The fund was announced in late 2013 — days after Hunter Biden and one of his daughters flew to China from Japan aboard Air Force Two with the vice president, who was in the midst of a diplomatic mission to calm rising tensions in the region, warning Chinese leaders not to use fighter jets to enforce an air defense zone created by Beijing over contested waters. Hunter Biden and his daughter participated in a few public events there with Mr. Biden.

The conservative author Peter Schweizer claimed that Hunter Biden used the trip to secure a deal with the Bank of China. That allegation has been echoed by Mr. Trump’s allies, and by the president himself on Thursday.

But a lawyer for Hunter Biden has said that he did not conduct any business related to the China investment fund on that trip, and that he was never an equity owner in the fund while his father was vice president. Hunter Biden later acquired a 10 percent interest in the entity that oversees the fund, but to date has not received any money from the arrangement, according to the lawyer.

Mr. Trump on Thursday said he had not personally asked President Xi for assistance. “But it’s certainly something we can start thinking about because I’m sure that President Xi does not like being under that kind of scrutiny.”

Mr. Trump’s suggestion that China investigate the Bidens comes as a delegation of senior Chinese officials is set to come to Washington next week for another round of trade negotiations. The two countries, which have been locked in a trade war, are hoping to make progress toward a deal after a breakdown in the talks in May, leading to an escalation of tariffs on each other’s goods.

Mr. Trump publicly continues to express ambivalence about the need for a deal while his advisers have been contemplating additional measures, such as banning Chinese companies from American stock exchanges, to inflict economic pain on China. The United States is expected to raise tariff rates on more Chinese imports on Oct. 15.

In recent weeks Mr. Trump has been raising the issue of Hunter Biden’s business dealings in China along with his allegations that his business in Ukraine represented conflicts of interest for his father, the former vice president. Mr. Trump’s Republican allies have also lodged such concerns.

In August, Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the Republican chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin asking him whether the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States was improperly influenced by Mr. Biden in 2015 when it approved the acquisition of a United States automotive technology company, Henniges Automotive, by a Chinese company and an investment firm linked to Hunter Biden.

The Treasury Department has said that it was reviewing the case.

Alan Rappeport and Kenneth P. Vogel contributed reporting.

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Joe Biden Fires Back at Trump: ‘You’re Not Going to Destroy Me’

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RENO, Nev. — Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Wednesday night delivered his most forceful response yet to President Trump’s attacks on him and his son, accusing the Trump team of waging a campaign of “lies, smears, distortions and name calling” geared at knocking him out of the presidential race.

Mr. Biden made his comments during a campaign swing through Nevada after days of internal debate among his advisers over how best to refute unsubstantiated claims by the president and his personal lawyer that Mr. Biden improperly assisted his son’s business ventures in Ukraine and China.

The counterattack, people close to Mr. Biden said, was intended to demonstrate what he had been promising supporters for the past week: that he would not let Mr. Trump “hijack” his campaign by allowing the president’s narrative to take root. It was also intended to prove, in a walk-and-chew-gum kind of way, that he could multitask even when facing withering political fire — unveiling a serious policy proposal on guns early Wednesday in Las Vegas, then pivoting to a sharp political attack by nightfall in the north.

State of the Race

“Let me make something clear to Trump and his hatchet men and the special interests funding his attacks against me: I’m not going anywhere,” Mr. Biden told a crowd of about 500 at the Truckee Meadows Community College here.

“You’re not going to destroy me,” he said to cheers from supporters, a handful wearing “Impeach 45” jerseys. “And you’re not going to destroy my family. I don’t care how much money you spend or how dirty the attacks get.”

The American people, Mr. Biden said, “know me and they know him. The idea of Donald Trump attacking anyone’s credibility is a joke.”

Earlier in the day, speaking at a gun safety forum in Las Vegas, Mr. Biden blasted the president and his personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, who had communicated with Ukrainian officials on Mr. Trump’s behalf.

He said there was “zero, zero, zero” evidence that his family had done anything wrong.

Mr. Biden’s increasingly bitter fight with Mr. Trump comes at a potential tipping point in the 2020 Democratic presidential race. Until recently, Mr. Biden had been leading in most national polls since he entered the field last spring. But Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, fueled by a highly disciplined campaign, has surged in many early-voting states.

A Monmouth University national poll released Wednesday showed Mr. Biden locked in a statistical dead heat with Ms. Warren, who garnered 28 percent support from Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters to his 25 percent, a difference within the survey’s margin of error.

At Wednesday night’s rally, Mr. Biden took a swipe at some of his Democratic opponents who had accused him of focusing too much on Mr. Trump and not enough on issues facing voters.

“A lot of my opponents say we have to do more than just beat Donald Trump,” he said. “I agree. We have to do more than beat Donald Trump. We have to beat him like a drum.”

Mr. Biden’s team has been alarmed by reports that Mr. Trump’s supporters plan to launch an aggressive advertising campaign to portray the former vice president as the person who had acted improperly — despite the lack of any evidence to support that claim.

And Mr. Biden’s top advisers have been equally incensed by what they view as the news media’s willingness to air unsupported allegations by Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani.

The president and his lawyer have alleged that Mr. Biden, as vice president, pressured the Ukrainians to force out a top prosecutor in order to derail an inquiry into a Ukrainian company that had paid his son, Hunter Biden. But Mr. Biden said Wednesday that he had been enforcing the demands of the Obama administration and other Western nations by seeking to replace the prosecutor with an official more committed to fighting corruption.

On Sunday, Anita Dunn and Kate Bedingfield, two senior Biden strategists, wrote to several major television networks asking them to stop booking Mr. Giuliani on their news programs, accusing him of spreading “debunked conspiracy theories.”

Mr. Biden amplified that argument on Wednesday, urging reporters to regard Mr. Trump’s statements, and his tweets, as not simply fodder for controversy but as a dangerous “abuse of power” that included enlisting foreign leaders as allies in his re-election effort.

Mr. Trump, he said, is “afraid of just how badly I would beat him next November.”

The president, in his own remarks on Wednesday, did not agree.

“I’d rather run against Biden than almost any of those candidates,” Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House.

More on the Impeachment Inquiry and the 2020 Race
Biden’s Strategy for Managing the Ukraine Story

Sept. 25, 2019

Trump, Biden and Ukraine: Sorting Out the Accusations

Sept. 22, 2019

Ukraine and Whistle-Blower Issues Emerge as Major Flashpoints in Presidential Race

Sept. 21, 2019

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For Finland’s President and Other Guests of Trump, Stoicism Is Key

WASHINGTON — An awkward handshake is really the least of their worries.

As President Trump continues to rage against impeachment — and the Democrats and whistle-blower he holds responsible for bringing it about — visiting world leaders are encountering a different kind of diplomatic mission.

It includes a welcome ceremony, a meeting with Mr. Trump and an invitation to sit stone-faced for an indeterminate amount of time on live television as the president accuses people of treason, lies and corruption. And sometimes the session is reprised a little later in a formal news conference.

That was what happened on Wednesday when President Sauli Niinisto of Finland became the latest foreign leader to strike a straight-lipped contrast to Mr. Trump as Mr. Trump defended himself and attacked his adversaries. Not once but twice.

As reporters crowded into the Oval Office, Mr. Trump sat beside his guest and accused Democratic lawmakers, including Representative Adam B. Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, of treason. Mr. Trump also suggested that the congressman was not fit to carry the secretary of state’s “‘blank’ strap,” as Mr. Niinisto looked on.

“He should resign from office in disgrace,” Mr. Trump said of Mr. Schiff, “and frankly they should look at him for treason.”

Adding to the awkward scene, a Finnish reporter seemed to pick up on the president’s anger, and asked Mr. Trump what he could learn from Finland, which has been rated the happiest country in the world.

“Finland is a happy country,” Mr. Trump said in response as he slapped Mr. Niinisto’s knee. “Finland is a happy country. He’s a happy leader, too.”

Mr. Niinisto nodded and seemingly moved to swat Mr. Trump’s hand away.

But the American president wasn’t done. And at a news conference later Wednesday, Mr. Niinisto was all but forced to again express some stolid Nordic enthusiasm.

“Mr. President, you have here a great democracy,” Mr. Niinisto told Mr. Trump in the East Room. “Keep it going on.”

Skipping the usual protocol with a visiting foreign leader is nothing new for Mr. Trump.

He has launched into meandering asides, including falsely claiming his father was born in Germany as Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary general, looked on in April. In 2017, he seemed to forget to shake hands with Angela Merkel, the German chancellor.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 02dc-memo-02-articleLarge For Finland’s President and Other Guests of Trump, Stoicism Is Key Zelensky, Volodymyr United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Sauli Niinisto, Morrison, Scott (1968- ) impeachment

President Trump last year with President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria.CreditTom Brenner/The New York Times

And, in front of Muhammadu Buhari, the president of Nigeria, Mr. Trump took questions concerning reports that he had called several African nations “shithole countries.”

“We didn’t discuss it because the president knows me,” Mr. Trump told reporters during his news conference with Mr. Buhari in April 2018, “and he knows where I’m coming from, and I appreciate that.”

Faced with the same question, the Nigerian president demurred, saying “the best thing for me is to keep quiet.”

Since the beginning of Mr. Trump’s presidency, at least some world leaders and their aides have made it a point to anticipate unexpected moments like these and plan ahead, according to a former official in the Washington diplomatic community who spoke on the condition of anonymity to not describe private planning.

The president’s approach has bent the norms of a protocol system put in place by Mr. Trump’s modern predecessors, according to Peter Selfridge, who served as the United States chief of protocol during the Obama administration.

“Obviously,” Mr. Selfridge said, “this president uses the press conference a little differently.”

President Barack Obama would regularly give his diplomatic guests warnings that a press availability might contain off-topic questions, according to a former Obama administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. But Mr. Obama would also appear visibly annoyed when asked questions not related to the purpose of the visit, especially if he was abroad.

When asked if Mr. Trump gave his visitors a similar heads-up, Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary, indicated that there was no need.

“I think foreign leaders are well aware that the U.S. press corps often has no desire to cover the foreign diplomacy taking place during these visits,” Ms. Grisham wrote in an email.

Indeed, Mr. Trump’s behavior often overshadows whatever diplomacy is taking place. White House officials told journalists before Mr. Niinisto’s visit that it would focus on economic cooperation and mutual security concerns between the two countries, which is a familiar refrain before any such visit.

But in the past two weeks, impeachment and the allegations against Mr. Trump and his relations with Ukraine have overshadowed diplomatic concerns.

That was more than just subtext to Mr. Trump’s meeting last week in New York with Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president. Mr. Zelensky, who in a transcript of his phone call with Mr. Trump in July adeptly flattered the president, could barely mask his discomfort when the two met with reporters afterward.

“It’s a great pleasure to me to be here,” Mr. Zelensky said, “and it’s better to be on TV than by phone, I think.”

Mr. Trump with Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia last month at the White House.CreditAnna Moneymaker/The New York Times

And two weeks ago, Scott Morrison, the prime minister of Australia, had little time to prepare when his state visit came just as the furor over the president and Ukraine began to unfold.

After Mr. Morrison’s welcome ceremony, Mr. Trump pulled him into the Oval Office and began deriding the whistle-blower’s complaint that details him repeatedly pressing the Ukrainian president to talk with aides interested in an investigation of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Defending his behavior on the call, he turned to Mr. Morrison for support.

“I’ve had conversations with many leaders,” Mr. Trump said. “They’re always appropriate. I think Scott can tell you that.”

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Attention Foreign Leaders Planning to Visit the White House: A Stoic Expression Is Key to Survival

WASHINGTON — An awkward handshake is really the least of their worries.

As President Trump continues to rage against impeachment — and the Democrats and whistle-blower he holds responsible for bringing it about — visiting world leaders are encountering a different kind of diplomatic mission.

It includes a welcome ceremony, a meeting with Mr. Trump and an invitation to sit stone-faced for an indeterminate amount of time on live television as the president accuses people of treason, lies and corruption. And sometimes the session is reprised a little later in a formal news conference.

That was what happened on Wednesday when President Sauli Niinisto of Finland became the latest foreign leader to strike a straight-lipped contrast to Mr. Trump as Mr. Trump defended himself and attacked his adversaries. Not once but twice.

As reporters crowded into the Oval Office, Mr. Trump sat beside his guest and accused Democratic lawmakers, including Representative Adam B. Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, of treason. Mr. Trump also suggested that the congressman was not fit to carry the secretary of state’s “‘blank’ strap,” as Mr. Niinisto looked on.

“He should resign from office in disgrace,” Mr. Trump said of Mr. Schiff, “and frankly they should look at him for treason.”

Adding to the awkward scene, a Finnish reporter seemed to pick up on the president’s anger, and asked Mr. Trump what he could learn from Finland, which has been rated the happiest country in the world.

“Finland is a happy country,” Mr. Trump said in response as he slapped Mr. Niinisto’s knee. “Finland is a happy country. He’s a happy leader, too.”

Mr. Niinisto nodded and seemingly moved to swat Mr. Trump’s hand away.

But the American president wasn’t done. And at a news conference later Wednesday, Mr. Niinisto was all but forced to again express some stolid Nordic enthusiasm.

“Mr. President, you have here a great democracy,” Mr. Niinisto told Mr. Trump in the East Room. “Keep it going on.”

Skipping the usual protocol with a visiting foreign leader is nothing new for Mr. Trump.

He has launched into meandering asides, including falsely claiming his father was born in Germany as Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary general, looked on in April. In 2017, he seemed to forget to shake hands with Angela Merkel, the German chancellor.

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President Trump last year with President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria.CreditTom Brenner/The New York Times

And, in front of Muhammadu Buhari, the president of Nigeria, Mr. Trump took questions concerning reports that he had called several African nations “shithole countries.”

“We didn’t discuss it because the president knows me,” Mr. Trump told reporters during his news conference with Mr. Buhari in April 2018, “and he knows where I’m coming from, and I appreciate that.”

Faced with the same question, the Nigerian president demurred, saying “the best thing for me is to keep quiet.”

Since the beginning of Mr. Trump’s presidency, at least some world leaders and their aides have made it a point to anticipate unexpected moments like these and plan ahead, according to a former official in the Washington diplomatic community who spoke on the condition of anonymity to not describe private planning.

The president’s approach has bent the norms of a protocol system put in place by Mr. Trump’s modern predecessors, according to Peter Selfridge, who served as the United States chief of protocol during the Obama administration.

“Obviously,” Mr. Selfridge said, “this president uses the press conference a little differently.”

President Barack Obama would regularly give his diplomatic guests warnings that a press availability might contain off-topic questions, according to a former Obama administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. But Mr. Obama would also appear visibly annoyed when asked questions not related to the purpose of the visit, especially if he was abroad.

When asked if Mr. Trump gave his visitors a similar heads-up, Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary, indicated that there was no need.

“I think foreign leaders are well aware that the U.S. press corps often has no desire to cover the foreign diplomacy taking place during these visits,” Ms. Grisham wrote in an email.

Indeed, Mr. Trump’s behavior often overshadows whatever diplomacy is taking place. White House officials told journalists before Mr. Niinisto’s visit that it would focus on economic cooperation and mutual security concerns between the two countries, which is a familiar refrain before any such visit.

But in the past two weeks, impeachment and the allegations against Mr. Trump and his relations with Ukraine have overshadowed diplomatic concerns.

That was more than just subtext to Mr. Trump’s meeting last week in New York with Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president. Mr. Zelensky, who in a transcript of his phone call with Mr. Trump in July adeptly flattered the president, could barely mask his discomfort when the two met with reporters afterward.

“It’s a great pleasure to me to be here,” Mr. Zelensky said, “and it’s better to be on TV than by phone, I think.”

Mr. Trump with Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia last month at the White House.CreditAnna Moneymaker/The New York Times

And two weeks ago, Scott Morrison, the prime minister of Australia, had little time to prepare when his state visit came just as the furor over the president and Ukraine began to unfold.

After Mr. Morrison’s welcome ceremony, Mr. Trump pulled him into the Oval Office and began deriding the whistle-blower’s complaint that details him repeatedly pressing the Ukrainian president to talk with aides interested in an investigation of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Defending his behavior on the call, he turned to Mr. Morrison for support.

“I’ve had conversations with many leaders,” Mr. Trump said. “They’re always appropriate. I think Scott can tell you that.”

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