A Sunnyvale-based cybersecurity firm called CrowdStrike that has figured into a right-wing conspiracy narrative dating back three years has now bubbled up into the unprecedented July 25 phone call that President Trump had with the newly elected president of Ukraine, which led to this week's historic launch of an impeachment inquiry.
Below, I will do my best to explain what CrowdStrike is, why Trump cares about them, and how we've reached a moment in American politics when every unsubstantiated theory promulgated on conservative talk radio can become an obsession of our truth-eschewing president.
What does CrowdStrike do? With the tagline "Breaches stop here," the company specializes in threat-detection and breach-prevention services and software, in addition to services like incident response and remediation in the event of a breach. The company recently had an IPO, and they're doing quite well.
How are they involved in all this? CrowdStrike was hired by the Democratic National Committee in 2016 to investigate the breach of their server. As Forbes explains, after the breach was pinned on the Russian government and appeared designed to hurt Hillary Clinton and benefit Trump, Trump has been obsessed with the theory popular among right-wing conspiracists that CrowdStrike somehow conspired with Democrats to hide the real culprit and blame Russia. In other words, all of this goes back to Trump's longstanding desire to prove that Russia didn't help him get elected and that his presidency is legitimate.
Why did Trump mention CrowdStrike to President Zelensky of Ukraine? Conspiracy theorists have long held that because the FBI never got to examine the DNC's server, CrowdStrike is somehow involved in keeping the server hidden, which they are doing because of the anti-Russia bias of CrowdStrike’s cofounder Dmitri Alperovitch. In the July phone call, Trump said, "The server, they say Ukraine has it." It's very likely Zelensky had no idea what he was talking about, though Trump's proxy Rudolph Giuliani has likely mentioned it to them multiple times. Trump even mentioned the server in his infamous 2018 Helsinki meeting with Vladimir Putin in which he denied all evidence that Russia was involved 2016 election meddling.
Why is Trump obsessed with this server? Because most of Trump's own thought process and vision of his presidency comes to him second-hand from the right-wing media, he has seized on the unsubstantiated belief that the DNC server somehow ended up in Ukraine and CrowdStrike hid it there. Why Ukraine? Because Trump has said, and seems to believe, that Alperovitch is a "very rich Ukrainian." He said as much in an Associated Press interview in 2017, and once again in the July call referred to "one of your wealthy people," obviously meaning Alperovitch. Alperovitch is actually a Russian-born American citizen, but Breitbart and others continue to believe he has an anti-Russia vendetta and is part of a broader left-wing conspiracy effort — this because Alperovitch is a senior fellow of the Cyber Statecraft Initiative at the Atlantic Council, which is funded by George Soros.
Has CrowdStrike commented on any of this? They clearly had to comment this week after their name was invoked in this pivotal phone call, and given that they're now likely to continue to be a target of the right-wing online lynch mobs who will be incensed by any and every aspect of this impeachment inquiry. "With regards to our investigation of the DNC hack in 2016, we provided all forensic evidence and analysis to the FBI," CrowdStrike said to Forbes. "As we’ve stated before, we stand by our findings and conclusions that have been fully supported by the US Intelligence community."
Speaking on Bloomberg TV this week, CrowdStrike CEO George Kurtz said, looking bewildered and amused by Trump's name-check, "All of what we did has already been said and... I don't understand where we are with things."
Does CrowdStrike have any actual connection to Ukraine? No. As NBC Bay Area reports, as a publicly traded company, we know where all of CrowdStrike's money comes from, and its biggest investors are "all American-based venture capitalists."
Is there an ironic Watergate parallel in all of this? There is! Richard Nixon's undoing had everything to do with his own paranoia about the Democrats, and about possibly not getting re-elected in 1972. The Watergate break-in was at the Democratic National Committee headquarters. The main difference is that Nixon won in a landslide in '72, and Trump won by a couple hundred thousand votes in three key swing states and lost the popular vote.
Photo: Michael Vadon/Wiki