Accuracy in Media


An attempt to fact-check remarks by President Donald Trump about Ukraine and Hillary Clinton’s missing server itself requires a fact check.

Under the headline “President Trump’s alternate reality on Ukraine,” Salvador Rizzo,  the Post’s assistant fact-checker, says the president “often presents a funhouse-mirror version of events when he talks about Ukraine and the House impeachment inquiry, and then fogs up the discussion by repeating these fantasy claims.”

First, there is no impeachment inquiry ongoing. The House has not voted to begin such a procedure, and even the vote scheduled for Thursday in the House does not signify the House is launching an official inquiry, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said.

Rizzo attempts to take issue with two Trump statements on the missing Democratic National Committee servers:

There’s “I still ask the FBI: Where is the server? Home come the FBI never got the server from the DNC? Where is the server? I want to see the server. Let’s see what’s on the server. So, the server, they say, is held by a company whose primary ownership individual is from Ukraine.”

And there’s “There was a server – the DNC server – that never went to the FBI. The FBI didn’t take it. It was taken by somebody that, I guess, it’s CrowdStrike – that’s what I’ve heard. And referring to that, that’s not for an election that’s going into the future, that’s for a past election that was a catastrophe.”

Rizzo then states: “Trump is fixated on the idea that Ukrainians might have hacked the Democratic National Committee’s network in 2016 and framed Russia for the cyber intrusion. It’s a debunked conspiracy theory that Trump’s own advisers have dismissed, flying in the face of detailed assessments from the U.S. intelligence community, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and the congressional committees that have investigated Russia’s election interference.”

He further points out that CrowdStrike “based in California” but controlled by Russians, “first investigated the DNC hack in June 2016 and traced it to two groups of hackers that ‘engage in extensive political and economic espionage for the benefit of the government of the Russian Federation and are believed to be closely linked to the Russian government’s powerful and highly capable intelligence services.”

Rizzo is wrong on virtually every count. Trump is not “fixated on the idea that Ukrainians might have hacked” the DNC. Trump is among many who suggest the murder of Seth Rich, a former Democratic National Committee aide who was killed on a Washington street on July 10, 2016, is related to the hack. DC police have called Rich’s murder a botched robbery, even though he was found with his wallet and jewelry.

The Mueller report backs the Russia theory, but its finding is based on CrowdStrike’s report, and its investigators also never examined the servers. Nor have U.S. intelligence services, which means their conclusions also are based on CrowdStrike’s report. The theory is not debunked in any way, and Trump’s advisers have not told him this.

Moreover, Rizzo goes on to contend, citing the Mueller report, that the Russians ‘stole thousands of documents from the DCCC and DNC networks …” as well as “internal strategy documents, fundraising data … opposition research into candidate Trump and … thousands of emails and attachments, which were later released by WikiLeaks in July 2016.”

The Russians and Wikileaks head Julian Assange both vehemently denied that Russia gave the information to Wikileaks, and Mueller’s team refused to interview Assange.

Rizzo further tries to muddy the waters on whether the government even tried to examine the servers. “The FBI and DNC disagree on whether the FBI requested access to the DNC’s servers,” he wrote. “Former FBI director James B. Comey testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee that the bureau made ‘multiple requests at different levels’ to access the servers, but the DNC said the FBI never requested access.”

He then asserted that a cybersecurity expert “told us that ‘handing over the server’ as Trump described could have destroyed evidence.”




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