Days before the Senate voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh last year, a former FBI assistant director appeared on MSNBC to suggest the Supreme Court nominee had a major credibility problem. “This is not…an investigation about the sexual allegations, I think it really has moved toward credibility,” Shawn Henry, an NBC News analyst, told Nicolle Wallace on October 1, 2018. “At this point now, there are very clear allegations, and subsequent to the judge’s testimony, people have come out who appear to be credible who…appear to be contradicting his testimony sworn before the United States Senate.”
Henry, clearly reciting Democratic talking points to imply Kavanaugh perjured himself before the Senate Judiciary Committee during his September showdown with Christine Blasey Ford, also referred to Ford as a “victim” and claimed that the FBI’s investigation into Kavanaugh’s testimony had “fallen short.”
Henry was presented to viewers as the channel’s “national security analyst,” but there was one title the network overlooked: Shawn Henry is a top executive for CrowdStrike, the cybersecurity firm hired by the Democratic National Committee to investigate the infamous hack of its email system in early 2016. Perhaps not coincidentally, the firm determined that the Russians were behind the intrusion. CrowdStrike’s June 2016 assessment remains the sole source of evidence to supply the pretext of the government’s Russian election interference claim; later, it would help bolster the Trump-Russia collusion fable.
The president, according to a transcript released by the White House, mentioned CrowdStrike during a phone call with the new Ukranian president over the summer. Now, the California-based company is facing renewed scrutiny both about the handling of the DNC email hack and the firm’s political affiliations. Last month, in response to questions about the firm’s clear connections to Democrats, CrowdStrike rejected accusations of bias in an FAQ posted on its website:
“CrowdStrike is not affiliated with any political party. We are a public cybersecurity company, and are non-partisan. We have done cybersecurity work for, and currently protect, both Republican and Democratic political organizations at the state, local, and federal level.”
That may be true in the most technical sense, but there are plenty of reasons to suspect that CrowdStrike is far from a disinterested player in the impeachment drama engulfing official Washington and gaslighting the American public. And since CrowdStrike produced the single piece of evidence used in the endless feedback loop to convince Americans that the Russians breached the DNC’s email system—the party refused to surrender its email devices to the FBI—reassessing the firm’s credibility in light of new information is warranted; in fact, it’s vital.
Henry, the president of CrowdStrike’s Washington operation, is a regular contributor to both MSNBC and NBC News programs. (His affiliation with CrowdStrike, however, is never mentioned.) Although he hasn’t worked for the FBI since 2012, Henry often weighs in as an FBI “expert,” opining on a variety of political issues from government shutdowns to the Kavanaugh debacle. Curiously, his views always come down on the side opposite of Donald Trump and the Republican Party.
In March 2017, Henry—who worked for Robert Mueller’s FBI during Barack Obama’s first term—participated in a post-inauguration forum to discuss the implications of Russia’s “hacking” the 2016 presidential election. The panel also featured former Hillary Clinton campaign manager John Podesta and Marc Elias, the general partner at Perkins Coie, a politically-influential law firm based in D.C..
It was a symbolic trio. Perkins Coie hired CrowdStrike in the spring of 2016 on behalf of the DNC. Instead of going directly to the FBI or other law enforcement agency about the breach, Democratic party leaders, working through Perkins Coie, retained CrowdStrike to find the culprits. Very cozy.
But that wasn’t Perkins Coie’s only involvement in the Russia-hacked-the-election plotline. The law firm also hired Fusion GPS—who in turn hired British political operative Christopher Steele to author his infamous dossier—on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the DNC around the same time Perkins retained CrowdStrike. According to disclosure reports, the DNC paid Perkins Coie $7.2 million during the 2016 election cycle: The PAC also paid CrowdStrike more than $400,000 during the same time period. (The DNC has paid CrowdStrike nearly $80,000 so far this year.)
And while CrowdStrike was working for the DNC in 2016, the firm also collaborated with key officials in the Obama Justice Department as it was ramping up its investigation into Trump’s presidential campaign. During a technology conference in March 2016, CrowdStrike hosted a cyber “war game” with Obama administration officials: “Four teams of ten people met for two hours to play the game,” according to an October 2016 profile in Esquire. “[National Security Division chief] John Carlin; Chris Painter…at the State Department; and Chris Inglis, the former deputy director of the NSA, were all part of the government team. A former member of GCHQ, the British intelligence organization, was on the international team. Ash Carter, the defense secretary, arrived halfway through and asked to play, but the game was already under way.”
Before Obama’s intelligence officials released a statement on October 7 that blamed the Russians for the DNC email breach, according to the Esquire article, Dmitri Alperovitch, CrowdStrike’s co-founder, was given a heads-up. “Alperovitch got a phone call from a senior government official alerting him that a statement identifying Russia as the sponsor of the DNC attack would soon be released. Once again, Alperovitch was thanked for pushing the government along.” The statement, issued by Obama’s Department of Homeland Security and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper one month before Election Day, lifted some of the wording from CrowdStrike’s report on the DNC breach. (Again, it’s important to note that no federal agency was allowed access to the DNC email servers; all evidence of Russian hacking came directly from CrowdStrike.)
Further, according to reporting by Michael Tracey, CrowdStrike had a contract with the FBI for $150,000 between July 2015 and July 2016 for unknown services.
So, to summarize, at the same time Perkins Coie hired Fusion GPS to dig up Russia-related dirt on Donald Trump, it hired CrowdStrike to investigate the hack of the DNC email systems. CrowdStrike, also at the same time, was working with the Obama Justice Department as the agency began investigating Trump campaign aides for suspected “collusion” with the Kremlin.
Even if one accepts those connections as standard Washington operating procedure, Henry’s political commentary should be enough to give more fair-minded observers pause about his company’s objectivity. In August, Henry appeared on Andrea Mitchell’s MSNBC show to push for stricter gun control in the aftermath of the El Paso mass shooting. “There’s a whole host of things that need to be done to change the climate, background investigations, background checks, will keep guns out of the hands of bad people,” Henry said on August 8. “But there’s a lot more that needs to be done in order to successfully mitigate what we’ve seen here over the past few years.” Yes, because mass shootings only started happening after Bad Orange Man was elected.
Last January, during the government shutdown, Henry warned that the move was affecting the “morale” of the FBI and threatened national security. “These operations are being impacted and that is a risk to the American public, it’s a risk to this country and it is absolutely a national security challenge,” Henry told MSNBC’s Brian Williams on January 23.
Henry also lamented the climate at the FBI after the arrest of the so-called package bomber Casar Sayoc last year. “What the FBI has gone through has been some morale issues of course with a lot of the language that’s been out there,” Henry said on the “Today” show on October 27, 2018. The language, it’s safe to assume, was criticism by President Trump, congressional Republicans and conservative media about the FBI’s activities in 2016 and 2017.
Trump foes dismiss any scrutiny of CrowdStrike as part of a “conspiracy theory.” But the tangled web between CrowdStrike, Democratic operatives, the Trump-hating media and the Obama Justice Department isn’t a theory, it is fact. And since the firm played a critical early role in planting the Russia collusion hoax, Trump and his allies are right to raise more questions.