Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast
On Sunday’s Meet the Press, host Chuck Todd interviewed retiring Republican Senator Lamar Alexander about his vote against calling additional witnesses in the impeachment trial. Alexander characterized President Trump’s actions in strong terms: wrong, inappropriate, improper and mistaken.
Alexander did not vote for more witnesses because, as he said, the House Mangers had proved their case. If eight people see someone fleeing a crime scene, Alexander doesn’t need a ninth or ten to say the same thing.
Nonetheless, Alexander does not feel the offense deserves “capital punishment” — in this case conviction and removal — especially as the first primary votes would be cast the next day in Iowa. On Monday, Trump won 97 – 3% in the Republican Iowa caucuses.
But there is another remedy: censure. On Monday, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin floated the idea of censure, saying: “Censure would allow this body to unite across party lines, and as an equal branch of government to formally denounce the president’s actions and hold him accountable.” When Senators speak on the floor in advance of the final trial vote, can Alexander be the one carrying the ball?
Included in the interview is some remarkable commentary to Alexander’s credit. He directly highlights an undermentioned facet of the impeachment trial: Trump’s reference to the discredited CrowdStrike conspiracy theory.
“You know, in the phone call, there’s one thing on the phone call that I’m surprised, frankly, hasn’t been brought up more by others,” the Meet the Press anchor [Chuck Todd] noted at one point. “This — the mere mention of the word ‘CrowdStrike,’ is a Russian intelligence sort of piece of propaganda that they’ve been circulating.”
“Does it bother you that the President of the United States is reiterating Russian propaganda?” Todd asked, referencing the fringe-right theory that the DNC server is currently in Ukraine and wasn’t hacked by Russia.
“Yes. I think that’s a mistake,” Alexander responded. “I mean, if you see what’s happening in the Baltic states, where Russians have a big warehouse in Saint Petersburg, in Russia, where they’re devoted to destabilizing western democracies.”
“I mean, for example, in one of the Baltic states, they accused a NATO officer of raping a local girl,” the senator continued. “Of course, didn’t happen. But it threw the government into complete disarray for a week. So I think we need to be sensitive to the fact that the Russians are out to do no good, to destabilize western democracies, including us, and be very wary of theories that Russians come up with and peddle.”
Essentially, Alexander is accusing Trump himself of peddling Russian-friendly propaganda.
Back on “The Crazy CrowdStrike Conspiracy Theory” (National Review)
Goldberg variously refers to the theory as crazy, nuts, loopy, nonsense and bonkers:
There’s a conspiracy theory, popular in the Oval Office and the swampier corners of the Internet, that the hacking of the DNC’s email servers wasn’t orchestrated by Russia but by Ukraine — to benefit Hillary Clinton!
This makes no sense for countless reasons we don’t have space for. But it’s worth noting that in the most popular version of this story, the DNC hack was an inside job, conducted by a low-level staffer named Seth Rich, who was then murdered to keep him from exposing the plot to frame the Russians.
CrowdStrike, a cybersecurity firm, was hired to analyze the server — which was actually more than 140 different servers. Rather than take possession of the server(s), CrowdStrike made digital copies of the whole shebang. This was allegedly a cover-up. As Trump tweeted in 2018, “Where is the DNC Server, and why didn’t the FBI take possession of it? Deep State?”
It gets loopier. As Trump suggested in his call with Zelensky, the theory is that CrowdStrike is a Ukrainian-owned or Ukrainian-connected company. It’s not. It’s based in California, and the alleged Ukrainian co-founder of the company was born in Russia. The suggestion that “the server” is being hidden in some Ukrainian warehouse, like the Ark of the Covenant at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie, is straight-up bonkers.
Goldberg adds that using CrowdStrike as an example of Ukranian corruption makes as much sense as saying, “the corruption related to Jimmy Hoffa’s body in Ukraine” or “the corruption related to the atomic rabbit prowling the sewers of Kiev.”
During the trial, I found myself squirming when the House Managers referenced Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election but failed to slam home Trump’s claim — though speaking in his evasive, signature codes, “I guess . . . they say” — that investigating CrowdStrike would get to the bottom of it all.
Why didn’t the managers ask the Senators:
Do you believe that the DNC hack was an inside job? Do you believe CrowdStrike is a Ukrainian-owned or Ukrainian-connected company? Do you believe Seth Rich was murdered to prevent him from exposing the plot to frame the Russians? Do you wonder why the FBI didn’t take possession of all 140 of the DNC servers? Do you believe the server is being hidden in some Ukrainian warehouse? Do you believe Trump believes what is music to Vladamir Putin’s ears?
But it is not too late. Alexander can go the senate podium and simply ask: “What should the American people think when their President in an official call to an ally’s leader invokes and legitimizes Russian propaganda straight from Vladimir Putin’s playbook?”
In his closing remarks, House Lead Manager Adam Schiff said, “Every single vote, even a single vote by a single member can change the course of history.” By calling for censure that man could be Lamar Alexander.