PolitiFact: Donald Trump’s ‘missing’ server comments get all of the details wrong
July 17, 2018
The Truth: “The DNC servers were never missing. The DNC provided the FBI with a copy of their server… We rate this statement False.”
Standing beside Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Donald Trump answered reporters' questions about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and if he believed Putin’s denials over his own intelligence community’s findings.
Instead of answering the question directly, Trump began discussing servers.
“You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server — haven't they taken the server. Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee? I've been wondering that, I've been asking that for months and months and I've been tweeting it out and calling it out on social media. Where is the server? I want to know where is the server and what is the server saying?
“With that being said, all I can do is ask the question. My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others, they said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin; he just said it's not Russia. I will say this: I don't see any reason why it would be. But I really do want to see the server.”
Moments later, Trump added, “What happened to the servers of the Pakistani gentleman that worked on the DNC? Where are those servers? They're missing; where are they?”
Trump's rhetorical question gets the details wrong.
You could take Trump's words to mean a DNC server has gone missing, but that's not true. And as for the “Pakistani gentleman,” Trump is referring to a House IT staffer who did not work for the DNC and who government investigators concluded did not steal or leak computer data.
The DNC server
On July 13, the Justice Department charged 12 Russian intelligence officers with hacking the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Hillary Clinton campaign staffers.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment confirms previous findings from the U.S. intelligence community. In April 2016, Russian intelligence officials installed spying software on the computer network of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which works to elect members of the U.S. House of Representatives. The hack in turn allowed them access to 33 Democratic National Committee computers. The emails obtained through the hack were pushed out on social media beginning in June 2016, and Wikileaks soon joined that effort.
At some point, the FBI and DNC started working together to fight the hack and investigate how it happened, but DNC was slow to react to the FBI’s initial warning that their server had been compromised.
During former FBI director James Comey’s testimony to the House Intelligence Committee, Comey was asked whether the FBI had ever received the DNC’s hacked hardware.
He said they did not, but obtained access from a review of the system performed by CrowdStrike, a third-party cybersecurity firm.
“We got the forensics from the pros that they hired which — again, best practice is always to get access to the machines themselves, but this, my folks tell me, was an appropriate substitute,” Comey said.
DNC spokeswoman Adrienne Watson told PolitiFact that the DNC cooperated with the FBI’s requests, which resulted in the DNC providing a copy of their server.
“An image of a server is the best thing to use in an investigation so that your exploration of the server does not change the evidence (just like you don’t want investigators leaving their own DNA around a physical crime scene) and so that the bad actors cannot make changes to the evidence while you are looking at it,” Watson said. “Any suggestion that they were denied access to what they wanted for their investigation is completely incorrect.”
We found no indication that the FBI had renewed their request to gain access to the actual server, or that investigating the server copy would have prevented the FBI from tracking down the culprits. (The FBI declined to comment.)
Trump said, “The servers of the Pakistani gentleman that worked on the DNC” are “missing.”
The DNC servers were never missing. The DNC provided the FBI with a copy of their server, rather than the original hardware, but Comey testified that the evidence was an appropriate substitute.
Awan, the “Pakistani gentleman” in the news, never worked for the DNC. Conservative news outlets suggested he had stolen a House Democratic server, but the U.S. Attorney’s Office found no evidence of such theft.
We rate this statement False.