In a July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, President Donald Trump asked the new leader to assist the United States in its ongoing investigation of foreign interference in the 2016 elections. The Department of Justice confirmed today that it is investigating Ukraine’s involvement in 2016 election meddling.
“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.”
Prior to the release of the transcript, media and other Democrats misrepresented the phone call as an abuse of office. It is unclear how a United States president attempting to get to the bottom of foreign interference in democratic U.S. elections constitutes an abuse of power, as many Democrats have alleged in recent days. The focus on the phone call comes ahead of the much-anticipated release of an Inspector General report on political spying abuses by the Obama administration as well as declassification of materials expected to detail efforts to spy on the Obama administration’s political opponents using false information.
While the media have largely ignored Ukraine’s outsize role in election meddling in 2016, a Politico article headlined “Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump backfire” details the efforts former officials made to support Hillary Clinton in her campaign against Donald Trump. Much of the so-called Russia scandal involves political players in Ukraine, including Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and Christopher Steele, the author of the debunked “dossier” alleging a grand conspiracy of collusion between Trump and Russia. Steele was secretly funded through cutouts by Clinton and the Democratic National Committee.
While it is unclear specifically what Trump was referring to with Crowdstrike, the company founded by a Russian-born businessman was tapped by the Democratic National Committee, which funded the Steele dossier, to examine its servers after they were hacked during the 2016 campaign. The company alleged that Russian actors had hacked the server.
Crowdstrike was forced to revise and retract “statements it used to buttress claims of Russian hacking during last year’s American presidential election campaign” after it was accused of misrepresenting data. Some cybersecurity experts strongly questioned its unequivocal claims regarding Russian hacking. Its report on Ukrainian artillery losses was widely circulated in the media before it was revised and retracted.
The Department of Justice confirmed today that Ukraine’s role in 2016 election meddling is being investigated and that some Ukrainians are already cooperating with the probe. “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,” DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement. “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.”