According to Trump, out of all the possible topics of conversation among world leaders at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, the thing “everyone” is chattering about is… former Clinton campaign manager John Podesta.
Everyone here is talking about why John Podesta refused to give the DNC server to the FBI and the CIA. Disgraceful!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 7, 2017
It is impossible to verify whether “everyone” is discussing Podesta with Trump, but one can assume that terrorism, the refugee crisis, Syria, North Korea, climate change, energy markets, international trade, or even the food are more likely topics of discussion than a single player in a U.S. election that happened eight months ago. But who knows?
What we do know is that “what everyone is talking about” is the least problematic part of Trump’s tweet: The president is confusing two entirely separate cyberattacks against his Democratic opponents during the 2016 election as well as Podesta’s job and the government agencies involved.
The president is referencing the Democratic National Committee’s refusal to give its server to the Federal Bureau of Investigation after it suffered a cyberattack that ultimately resulted in tens of thousands of DNC emails being leaked to and published by WikiLeaks. Instead of handing over its server, the DNC gave the FBI an analysis of the server conducted by a private cybersecurity firm, CrowdStrike.
Although the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the National Security Agency (NSA), and the FBI all concluded that the hack on the DNC and the leak of its emails were perpetrated by Russian hackers, the CIA was not involved in the DNC server transaction.
The FBI does sometimes use third-party security analysis in its investigations. And the Department of Justice has itself had CrowdStrike under contract. But the DNC’s refusal to turn over its server remains a point of contention.
Here is where Trump is getting things mixed up: Podesta was also hacked by Russia, according to the U.S. intelligence community, and his emails were also published by WikiLeaks. But that was an entirely separate hack than the one waged against the DNC. Further, Podesta did not work for the DNC; he worked for the Clinton campaign, and he was not in a position to make decisions about its servers.
Podesta later responded to Trump on Twitter, explaining why his claim was false and telling him to “get a grip, man.”
1/ On a x-country road trip with my wife;— John Podesta (@johnpodesta) July 7, 2017
2/ Pulled in for a pit stop in E. Fairmont W. Va. to see that our whack job POTUS @realDonaldTrump is tweeting about me at the G20.— John Podesta (@johnpodesta) July 7, 2017
3/ Get a grip man, the Russians committed a crime when they stole my emails to help get you elected President.— John Podesta (@johnpodesta) July 7, 2017
4/ Maybe you might try to find a way to mention that to President Putin.— John Podesta (@johnpodesta) July 7, 2017
5/ BTW, I had nothing to do with the DNC.— John Podesta (@johnpodesta) July 7, 2017
6/ God only knows what you'll be raving about on twitter by the time we get to Utah.— John Podesta (@johnpodesta) July 7, 2017
7/7 Dude, get your head in the game. You’re representing the US at the G20.— John Podesta (@johnpodesta) July 7, 2017
Friday’s tweet is not the first time Trump has confused the DNC and Podesta hacks.
Julian Assange said "a 14 year old could have hacked Podesta" – why was DNC so careless? Also said Russians did not give him the info!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 4, 2017
And it likely won’t be the last.
Update 10:38am CT, July 7: Added Podesta’s response to Trump.