Over lunch today, we fell to questioning whether Trump, in his infamous conversation with Zelensky, might plausibly have been concerned with Ukraine's involvement in the 2016 US election. Instead of just wanting Ukraine to kneecap Joe Biden, that is.
In this note for the NY Post, via RealClearPolitics, Andrew McCarthy states the case better than I could.
1. McCarthy points out that Russia and Ukraine could not BOTH have hacked the DNC server. He accepts that Russia hacked the server and dismisses the idea that Ukraine had anything to do with it as "fringe."
I agree with McCarthy's first proposition. That the two countries both hacked the DNC is highly unlikely. After all, two burglars working independently might decide to burgle me in the same week, or even on the same night, but it would be pretty surprising.
However, being both more cynical than McCarthy and less burdened with information, I am suspending judgment about whether Russians -- or anyone -- hacked the DNC. I concede that Russians might've wanted to do it and that they would love to be able to manipulate American elections. But I am suspicious about whether the Russians are guilty because the DNC and FBI both relied on CrowdStrike to investigate and to opine that they had. The FBI never examined the server. That smells funny.If CrowdStrike is wrong, the FBI was too trusting, and Russians weren't the miscreants, who was?Why not Ukraine? Lee Smith makes Ukrainian gangsters in the US the source of fake news in Blue Moon, his latest Jack Reacher novel. If it's good enough for best-selling men's fiction, it's worth a harder look. Trump certainly has better reason than I to be suspicious of anything the FBI or Mueller's group says, he's entitled to a little paranoia by now, and it makes sense that he would've liked Zelensky to look into it.Another theory -- one that absolves Russians, Ukrainians and all other foreign nationals -- is that the emails were downloaded from the DNC server by a disgruntled employee, one who was unhappy that the DNC was rigging the 2016 primary contest in favor of Hillary. (I wave off conspiracy theories about what happened to the unfortunate employee and old rumors about Vince Foster.) But if the leak WAS internal, the DNC, Hillary, and her supporters in the FBI might've thought blaming Russians would (1) avoid causing trouble with Bernie supporters and (2) make linkage of Russians to Trump via the Steele Dossier more potent.In opposition to my theories about disgruntled employees or Ukrainians, the New York Times argues that CrowdStrike (1) is trustworthy because its senior management includes a former FBI guy, (2) CrowdStrike is trustworthy because it has worked for the RNC as well as the DNC, (3) the FBI didn't need to examine the server because CrowdStrike gave the FBI a data image, and (4) Mueller's indictment of Russians for the hacking corroborates CrowdStrike's conclusion.Maybe, maybe not.First, knowing what we know now about Comey, McCabe and Strozk, it is laughable to think having an FBI guy in senior management resolves questions about credibility. I do trust the FBI about bank-robbers and kidnappers (at least to the extent that any institution that refuses to audiorecord interviews can be trusted). And if Clarice Starling said something about an alleged serial killer, I'd believe her. But, sad to say, I trust the FBI not at all about anything politically-inflected. Or, more precisely, I trust FBI agents with respect to any politically-inflected matter only to the extent that they are supervised closely by persons I do trust. At present, that short list includes Fr. Joe, Lisa, Mr. Barr, and a few others whose identities I must protect, but not FBI guys generally.Second, that CrowdStrike worked for the RNC too at some point means nothing. I believe that CrowdStrike is competent at IT and, obviously, lots of IT-related things have no political implications. Maybe the RNC wanted to upgrade its network and CrowdStrike gave them a good price. But the removal of emails from the DNC server was a highly sensitive political matter. If a CEO were kidnapped, the FBI wouldn't just accept the conclusion of the corporation's security staff that the deed had been done by North Korean spies rather than disgruntled employees. Trusting CrowdStrike smells like covering one's bureaucratic posterior by outsourcing a lie.Third, how did the FBI confirm that the "data image" was what it purported to be? If it were authentic, would it be enough to support a conclusion about how the emails were taken off the server? Being technically ignorant, I'd like to hear something more persuasive than the say-so of potentially interested parties such as CrowdStrike or the Comey-FBI.Finally, Mueller's indictment of individual Russians would persuade me if (1) I trusted Mueller and his team or (2) the Russians had contested the charges and been convicted. But I don't trust Mueller's team and the Department of Justice never had to prove its case because, as was to be expected, none of the Russians came to the US to defend him- or herself in court. So the indictments are untested allegations.
2. McCarthy states the second, independent, theory about Ukrainian involvement in the 2016 election. The gist is that, "a Ukrainian court, in late 2018, concluded that two Ukrainian officials meddled in the election. And in 2018 House testimony, Nellie Ohr — who worked for Fusion GPS, the Clinton campaign opposition research firm that produced the lurid and discredited Steele dossier — conceded that a pro-Clinton Ukrainian legislator was a Fusion informant."
That's enough for me to accept that Ukraine was involved in 2016 skullduggery. Trump should and might plausibly have been interested in having Zelensky look into that.
Of course Trump might also have been interested in having Zelensky look into corruption involving Biden, Hunter and Burisma. So am I and he should have been. Being a political candidate shouldn't convey immunity from investigation. Should it?
Surely the issue should be whether an investigation of a political figure is based on a reasonable suspicion. No one should be investigated just because his or her enemies tell lies. Surely Biden should be given a chance to clear his name before we get further into the primary season. Surely we'd rather have the matter resolved one way or the other now rather than having it pop up as 2020's October surprise.