Here’s a real exchange that happened on planet Earth Monday night between CNN’s Chris Cuomo and Texas Republican Rep. Randy Weber:
WEBER: Is CrowdStrike in part owned by a Ukrainian?
WEBER: … Really?
WEBER: That’s not the information that we have.
CUOMO: You have bad information!
Cuomo’s right! That is bad information! One of the co-founders of CrowdStrike, a data and computer security company, is a man named Dmitri Alperovitch. He was born in Russia — not Ukraine! — and is now an American citizen.
These are facts. Which are not in dispute.
Weber’s unfamiliarity with these facts echoes President Donald Trump’s attempts to push the idea that Ukraine was involved, somehow, in meddling in the 2016 presidential election to help Hillary Clinton and hurt him. (We know, of course, thanks to the intelligence community, as well as special counsel Robert Mueller’s report and the Senate Intelligence Committee, that it was Russia that ran a broad and coordinated campaign to help Trump and hurt Clinton in 2016.)
Here’s Trump on that very subject during an interview with “Fox & Friends” late last month:
“The Democrats, a lot of it had to do, they say, with Ukraine. It’s very interesting. It’s very interesting. They have this server, right? From the DNC, Democratic National Committee. The FBI went in and they told them, ‘Get out of here. You’re not getting it. We’re not giving it to you.’ They gave the server to CrowdStrike or whatever it’s called, which is a company owned by a very wealthy Ukrainian. And I still want to see that server. You know, the FBI has never gotten that server. That’s a big part of this whole thing. Why did they give it to a Ukrainian company?”
There’s literally nothing true in that quote. Consider:
* As I noted above, Alperovitch is an American citizen. He was born in Russia. He at no time in his life has been a “very wealthy Ukrainian.”
* There is ZERO evidence that the Ukrainians have the DNC server that the Russians hacked in 2016. (Remember, emails from that server were released on WikiLeaks in hopes of damaging Clinton’s campaign.)
* The DNC didn’t tell the FBI, “Get out of here. You’re not getting it.” In fact, the FBI obtained copies of forensic images made by CrowdStrike, a well-known online security company, which had imaged the DNC server — creating a digital copy of everything on it.
* CrowdStrike isn’t a Ukrainian company! It’s based in Sunnyvale, California. And, as The Washington Post’s Fact Checker notes, it’s traded on the NASDAQ.
So, none of these allegations by Trump are true. And yet, Weber is on national television repeating one of them. And Louisiana Republican Sen. John Kennedy is doing the same thing. After a week of flipping and flopping about what Ukraine did or didn’t do in 2016, Kennedy told CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux this on Tuesday morning:
“There’s no question in my mind Ukraine did try to influence the election. I know that I’ve read that the Intelligence Committee made some kind of finding, I don’t know what it was. I’m aware of Dr. Hill’s testimony and she’s entitled to her opinion.”
“Some kind of finding!” You mean when the Senate Intelligence Committee, after a lengthy investigation, concluded that Russia sought to interfere in the 2016 election to help Trump and hurt Clinton? The same Senate Intelligence Committee chaired by Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina?
“She’s entitled to her opinion.” The “she” here is Fiona Hill, a longtime Russia expert and member of the National Security Council during the Trump administration. And her “opinion” — that Ukraine didn’t meddle in the 2016 election and that the people pushing that idea were Russians or their allies — was an opening statement under oath in the public impeachment hearings on Capitol Hill.
What’s going on here is some mix of ignorance and willful blindness. It’s possible — and, judging by his reaction, even likely — that Weber truly believed that a Ukrainian owned CrowdStrike. But it’s not possible that all of the gaslighting going on here is unintentional. Kennedy knows better — as his short-lived apology for alleging that Ukraine might have been involved in the hacking of the DNC server reveals.
Facts matter. Especially now. And the facts here are clear: Ukraine didn’t meddle in the 2016 election. Russia did.