The White House released a memo that included a transcript of the call between Donald Trump and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky that is now the focus of an impeachment inquiry (the transcript is not fully complete and is not transcribed verbatim.)
In the call on July 25, Trump congratulates Zelensky for his victory in the elections, the two exchange pleasantries, and then Trump said it “would be great” if the new Ukrainian president could help investigate Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden and his son, who was on the board of an oil company in Ukraine.
But that’s not the only request for a favor Trump made. In a confusing ramble, Trump told Zelenksy he’d like him to look into “the server,” and namedropped CrowdStrike, the cybersecurity firm that investigated the hack on the Democratic National Committee in 2016.
For what it's worth, people at CrowdStrike are as confused as we all are.
“I got nothing,” Adam Meyers, the vice president of intelligence at CrowdStrike, told me in an online chat, when asked why Trump may have referred to the company in the call.
A company spokesperson said that they were working on an official response.
“My media monitoring tool has been blowing up!” the spokesperson said in an email.
Have a tip about a hack or a security incident? You can contact Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai securely on Signal at +1 917 257 1382, OTR chat at email@example.com, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
In a statement sent to reporters, CrowdStrike said that "with regards to our investigation of the DNC hack in 2016, we provided all forensic evidence and analysis to the FBI. As we've stated before, we stand by our findings and conclusions that have been fully supported by the US Intelligence community."
How Trump managed to remember the name "CrowdStrike," which is mentioned only four times in the Mueller report, each in footnotes, is anyone's guess. And honestly, who knows what the fuck Trump is actually trying to say here. It’s unclear why he believes Ukraine has “the server,” and what server he is even talking about. Presumably, Trump is referring to the DNC server that’s at the center of a conspiracy theory completely made up by Trump’s imagination, though perhaps he's thinking of Hillary Clinton's private email server.
“Where is the DNC server, and why didn’t the FBI take possession of it? Deep State?” Trump tweeted last year.
According to this conspiracy, the FBI and CrowdStrike failed to seize a DNC server that supposedly holds important information related to the hack. In reality, there’s no missing server, and both CrowdStrike and the US government concluded that Russian government hackers broke into the DNC.
In a 2017 interview with the Associated Press, Trump said CrowdStrike is “Ukraine-based” (fact check: it’s based in Sunnyvale, California, and has a big office in Arlington, Virginia).
“That’s what I heard. I heard it’s owned by a very rich Ukrainian, that’s what I heard,” Trump said.
So, to recap, it seems that Trump is saying that CrowdStrike, an American company, is actually Ukrainian. That’s why he’s asking the new President of Ukraine, a former comedian by the way, to help him find a missing server that actually does not exist.
For the record, CrowdStrike is a cybersecurity company that makes an antivirus-like product called Falcon. This is a cloud-based software that monitors computers and protects them from malware. The company also investigates data breaches when customers hire its researchers to respond to an incident.
This story has been updated to include CrowdStrike's comments.
Subscribe to our new cybersecurity podcast, CYBER.