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Photo: Thomas Koehler/Photothek via Getty Images

"Where is the server?" President Trump has repeatedly asked this question — including with Russian president Vladimir Putin today — when discussing the indictment of 12 Russians for hacking the Democratic National Committee and other targets in 2016.

Why it matters: The complaint that the DNC denied the FBI access to its hacked servers is a hallmark of the right's response to the DNC hacking scandal. But people familiar with these kinds of investigations say withholding the server was nothing out of the ordinary.

The backstory: Rather than turn its server over to the FBI, the DNC hired a private security firm, Crowdstrike, to investigate the hacking.

Independent investigations are common: According to the law firm BakerHostetler, well over half of the organizations it advises seek out private investigators to investigate hacks. It’s increasingly common for those investigators to handle the low-level forensic work in place of the FBI.

  • Leo Taddeo, former special agent in charge of the cyber division of the FBI’s New York office, told The Hill: "In nine out of 10 cases, we don't need access, we don't ask for access, we don't get access. That's the normal [procedure]. It's extraordinarily rare for the FBI to get access to the victim's infrastructure because we could mess it up," he added. "We usually ask for the logs and images, and 99 out of a hundred times, that's sufficient.”
  • Beyond the potential for damage, seizing a server can revictimize an organization after a hack. Losing a server can disrupt or even shut down a business or organization.
  • Law enforcement is often happy to let private investigators take on the initial phase of investigative work because it saves time and money.

Another problem with handing over a server: If the FBI mishandles data or, say, leaks it to the press or a political partisan, the organization places itself in jeopardy.

The server is now just a small part of the evidence: One thing clear from the most recent indictment is that the FBI has now amassed significant additional evidence beyond what Crowdstrike could have obtained in its own investigation.

  • Any information dealing with activities or data on other servers — including Russian-affiliated servers in the United States and social media accounts, all of the names and individual actions from specific actors — was obtained separately from the DNC server.
  • Even if you read dark meaning into the DNC's use of Crowdstrike rather than the FBI, at this point, it doesn't matter: Friday's indictments show that the FBI has now pieced together a factual account that renders the whole argument moot.

Go deeper

Civil rights leaders plan a day of voting rights marches

Martin Luther King III and Rev. Al Sharpton. Photo: Cheriss May/Getty Images

Civil rights leaders from Washington to Phoenix are planning marches on Aug. 28 to push Congress to pass new protections around voting rights.

Why it matters: A landmark voting rights proposal remains stalled in the U.S. Senate, as Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and other moderates block efforts at filibuster reforms to advance a bill held up by Republicans.

Latinos twice as likely as white people to die from gunfire

Expand chart
Data: Violence Policy Center; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Nearly 3,000 Latinos each year have died from gunfire in the United States over the last two decades, making them twice as likely to be shot to death than white non-Hispanics, according to a study from the Violence Policy Center.

By the numbers: Almost 70,000 Latinos were killed with firearms between 1999 and 2019, 66% of them in homicides, according to the center’s data analysis.

Top labor leader Richard Trumka dies unexpectedly at 72

Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who led the largest federation of unions in the country for over a decade, has died at 72.

The big picture: Trumka began working as a coal miner in 1968 and would go on to dedicate his life to the labor movement, including as president of the 12.5 million-member AFL-CIO beginning in 2009.