It is perhaps the key piece of forensic evidence in Russia’s suspected efforts to sway the November presidential election, but federal investigators have yet to get their hands on the hacked computer
In recent days, questions about the server have taken on more importance as attention has focused on an email suggesting that the DNC and the Obama administration’s Justice Department were trying to limit the scope of the FBI’s investigation into Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s secret email account.
Mentioned in recent reporting and testimony from fired FBI Director James B. Comey, the correspondence reportedly shows Obama-era Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch privately assuring “someone in the Clinton campaign that the email investigation would not push too deeply into the matter.”
Some observers have wondered whether the information is real or is Russian disinformation.
The hacked server was last photographed in the basement of the DNC’s Washington headquarters near a file cabinet dating from the 1972 break-in of the DNC headquarters at the Watergate Hotel.
Both Republicans and Democrats say the DNC’s reaction to the hacking is troubling.
Jeh Johnson, who served as homeland security secretary under President Obama, told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence last month that his department offered to assist the DNC during the campaign to determine what was happening, but Mr. Johnson said he was rebuffed.
“The DNC,” Mr. Johnson said at the time, “did not feel it needed DHS’ assistance at that time. I was anxious to know whether or not our folks were in there, and the response I got was the FBI had spoken to them, they don’t want our help, they have CrowdStrike.”
In January, Mr. Comey told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that the FBI issued “multiple requests at different levels” to assist the DNC with a cyberforensic analysis. Those requests were also denied.
DNC officials said the Russian hack had already been discovered and dealt with when the Homeland Security Department approached them last summer.
Sen. Kamala D. Harris, California Democrat and a member of the Senate intelligence committee, said more needs to be known about the interaction.
“As a general point, there is no question that we need to look into everything in terms of who did what, what was invasive about hacking, and what they gained from it and why,” Ms. Harris told The Times. “Not only so we can establish what happened, but so it can teach us what is frankly inevitable about the next election cycle if we don’t figure out what happened.”
The White House has highlighted what it says is the DNC’s reluctance to accept help dealing with the server hack. President Trump, in a May 7 tweet, wondered: “When will the Fake Media ask about the Dems dealings with Russia & why the DNC wouldn’t allow the FBI to check their server or investigate?”
Clouds over CrowdStrike
The DNC hack produced embarrassing internal emails that were posted to WikiLeaks and sparked a nasty internal battle just as the party was preparing for its convention and refereeing a spirited primary contest between front-runner Hillary Clinton and the insurgent campaign of Sen. Bernard Sanders.
Some emails suggested that the DNC leadership — including Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz — had plotted to undermine Mr. Sanders’ ascent in the presidential race. The WikiLeaks revelations on July 22 eventually resulted in the departures of Ms. Wasserman Schultz and several other top DNC executives.
To explore the hack, the DNC called in CrowdStrike, a cybersecurity tech company launched in 2011 hoping to challenge better-known industry leaders such as Symantec and McAfee.
Co-founded by George Kurtz and Dmitri Alperovitch, both former McAfee employees, CrowdStrike quickly acquired a string of high-profile clients.
In 2014, it investigated the Sony Pictures leak, the disclosure of a trove of sensitive and embarrassing internal emails and executive salary data apparently orchestrated by hackers sympathetic to North Korea, and who objected to Sony’s comic depiction of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
“We don’t have a mission statement — we are on a mission to protect our customers from breaches,” CrowdStrike’s website declares.
The firm also has found success in generating venture capital support. Fortune magazine reported that it has raised $256 million and boasts a “valuation exceeding $1 billion.”
Investors include Warburg Pincus, whose president, Timothy Geithner, worked for the Clinton and Obama administrations. The Clinton campaign’s largest corporate contributor, Google, whose employees donated more than $1.3 million to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign last year, also has funded CrowdStrike.
During the election cycle last year, the DNC paid CrowdStrike more than $410,000. This year, it has collected more than $121,000 from the party.
The DNC declined to answer questions about CrowdStrike. During a telephone call with The Times, DNC communications staff also refused to discuss the location of its infamous server.
In an ironic twist, CrowdStrike has added the National Republican Congressional Committee to its client list. The NRCC also declined to answ