President Donald Trump posted a string of rage-tweets on Thursday morning. He began by attacking the “FAKE NEWS MEDIA,” then pivoted to blasting special counsel Robert Mueller.
He eventually got around to trying to deflect from Mueller’s investigation of his campaign for possible collusion with Russia by making unfounded allegations against Democrats, including accusing them of being the real colluders, and capped off his morning with a remarkably dishonest tweet in which each sentence contains a distinct falsehood.
“The only ‘Collusion’ is that of the Democrats with Russia and many others,” Trump wrote. “Why didn’t the FBI take the Server from the DNC? They still don’t have it. Check out how biased Facebook, Google and Twitter are in favor of the Democrats. That’s the real Collusion!”
The only “Collusion” is that of the Democrats with Russia and many others. Why didn’t the FBI take the Server from the DNC? They still don’t have it. Check out how biased Facebook, Google and Twitter are in favor of the Democrats. That’s the real Collusion!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 15, 2018
None of this is true. Here’s a sentence-by-sentence breakdown:
“The only ‘collusion’ is that of the Democrats with Russia and many others.”
In January 2017, the FBI, CIA, and National Security Agency released a consensus intelligence assessment about Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. The assessment concludes that Russia “developed a clear preference” for Trump, and Russian President Vladimir Putin “ordered an influence campaign” to help him win:
We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.
That influence campaign involved hacking of Democratic targets and the eventual publication of purloined emails by WikiLeaks. Even Trump’s hand-selected top officials have acknowledged that WikiLeaks acted as a Russian cutout during the campaign. As detailed in Mueller’s indictment of Russian hackers and digital propagandists, the campaign also involved the creation of social media accounts that spread messages meant to undermine Trump’s opponents — most notably, Hillary Clinton.
If Democrats were really colluding with Russia, it seems odd that the fruits of the conspiracy would’ve been a propaganda campaign against the Democratic presidential nominee — one Trump publicly encouraged during his last press conference before the election.
What’s more, as Mueller’s indictment of Russian spies for the DNC hack details, hackers responded to Trump’s public encouragement of hacking against Clinton by redoubling their efforts to hack her the very next day.
“Why didn’t the FBI take the Server from the DNC? They still don’t have it.”
Trump has repeatedly pushed the conspiracy theory that the FBI somehow protected the DNC after its networks were penetrated by Russian hackers, perhaps more famously while standing beside Putin during their joint press conference in Helsinki in July.
The implication of Trump’s question is that Russia may not have ultimately been responsible for the DNC hack, and that the FBI possibly helped Democrats cover up that inconvenient truth.
But law enforcement and cybersecurity experts agree that it would have been highly unusual for the FBI to seize the DNC’s servers as part of its investigation into the hacking. And despite Trump’s nefarious suggestion that machines went missing, none of them have.
As the Daily Beast detailed when Trump said “you have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server” while standing next to Putin:
It’s true that the FBI doesn’t have the DNC’s computer hardware. Agents didn’t sweep into DNC headquarters, load up all the equipment and leave Democrats standing stunned beside empty desks and dangling cables. There’s a reason for that, and it has nothing to do with a deep state conspiracy to frame Putin.
Trump and his allies are capitalizing on a basic misapprehension of how computer intrusion investigations work. Investigating a virtual crime isn’t a like investigating a murder. The Russians didn’t leave DNA evidence on the server racks and fingerprints on the keyboards. All the evidence of their comings and goings was on the computer hard drives, and in memory, and in the ephemeral network transmissions to and from the GRU’s command-and-control servers.
Around that same time, Leo Taddeo, a former special agent in charge of the cyber division of the FBI’s New York office, told the Hill that “normal procedure” is to ask cybercrime victims “for the logs and images, and 99 out of a hundred times, that’s sufficient.” The DNC fully cooperated with the FBI’s efforts to investigate the hacking of its networks.
“Check out how biased Facebook, Google and Twitter are in favor of the Democrats. That’s the real Collusion!”
Republicans have spent months pushing evidence-free conspiracy theories that social media companies are biased against conservatives. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has cited Wikipedia edits as evidence that Google is censoring Republicans, and in the process demonstrated he has no idea how Wikipedia or Google works.
Trump has also made claims about Google search results censoring positive news about him that took seconds to refute.
The timing of Trump’s claim that “Facebook, Google and Twitter are in favor of the Democrats” is ironic, given that it comes just hours after the New York Times published an investigation detailing how Facebook was reluctant to sound the alarm about Russian infiltration of the platform due to concerns that it would result in Republicans crying out about bias.
And as the special counsel’s team painstakingly detailed in its indictment of Russian hackers and propagandists, troll Facebook and Twitter accounts were central to the Kremlin’s strategy of pushing pro-Trump messages in 2016.
Deflect, deflect, deflect
Trump’s tweet is absurd on its face, contradicts the intelligence community’s consensus conclusions, and even flies in the face of what the president’s own intelligence officials have said about Russia’s interference in the election in 2016.
It does, however, deflect attention from the special counsel’s investigation — while placing more scrutiny on the investigators and on Democrats’ conduct.