Nov 2, 2019

New Mueller documents link Russia probe and impeachment inquiry

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Newly released documents from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation link the Russia probe and the current impeachment inquiry into the president, the Washington Post reports.

What's new: Digital news platform BuzzFeed successfully sued for the documents. Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort suggested in 2016 that Ukraine could have been responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee instead of Russia, the newly released internal memos show.

The backdrop: In their July 25 phone call, Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky "to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine. They say Crowdstrike..." The whistleblower accused Trump, in that call, of trying to "pressure the Ukrainian leader to take actions to help the president's 2020 reelection bid" by investigating Joe and Hunter Biden in exchange for military aid.

  • In the call, which is now at the center of the impeachment inquiry, the president appeared to subscribe to a right-wing conspiracy theory that Crowdstrike, the U.S.-owned firm hired by the DNC to investigate hackers responsible for the 2016 breach, is owned by Ukraine.
  • Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney walked back his comments in October about the Trump administration freezing military aid as leverage to get Ukraine to investigate that conspiracy theory.

What else: According to the new memos, former Trump deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates told the FBI he believed the president and others may have known ahead of time about WikiLeaks’ plans to release DNC emails allegedly stolen by Russia, per the Post.

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Senators briefed that CrowdStrike theory is Russian-backed disinformation campaign

Fiona Hill, former official at the National Security Council specialising in the former Soviet Union and Russian and European affairs, at her hearing on the impeachment of President Trump. Photo: Michael Brochstein / Echoes Wire / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Intelligence officials recently briefed senators and their aides on Russian efforts to pin interference in the 2016 U.S. election on Ukraine, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: As part of their defense of President Trump amid the impeachment inquiry, Republicans have tried to advance the now-debunked conspiracy theory that the government in Kiev was responsible for hacking the 2016 election.

Go deeperArrowNov 22, 2019

Sen. John Kennedy repeats Ukraine conspiracy theory about DNC server

Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) reiterated a debunked conspiracy theory on "Fox News Sunday" that Ukraine may have interfered in the 2016 presidential election by hacking the Democratic National Committee's computer servers, despite consensus in the U.S. intelligence community that Russia was responsible for the attacks.

Go deeperArrowNov 24, 2019

Vindman calls Ukrainian election interference conspiracy theory "a Russian narrative"

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman said during Tuesday's impeachment hearing that the conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election is "a Russian narrative that President [Vladimir] Putin has promoted."

The big picture: The debunked conspiracy theory — frequently referred to as CrowdStrike, the security firm at its center — is based on the idea that Ukraine was complicit in the 2016 hacking of the Democratic National Committee to create false electronic records that Russia was behind the hacking.

Go deeperArrowNov 19, 2019