The week leading up to Christmas has proven explosive for various aspects of the technological world. In a matter of days, Bitcoin’s value plummeted drastically and Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Alphabet’s board of directors, stepped down without naming a successor. The announcement has raised a storm of questions as to the motive behind the decision, and speculation as to Schmidt’s future.
CNBC reported that Alphabet, Google’s parent company, had announced Schmidt would be transitioning to a technical advisory role, and will continue to serve on the company’s board. The Wall Street Journal related that Schmidt had published a statement on the matter, which read in part: “Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai and I all believe that the time is right in Alphabet’s evolution for this transition… In recent years, I’ve been spending a lot of my time on science and technology issues, and philanthropy, and I plan to expand that work.”
The New York Post writes that the timing of Schmidt’s sudden move — along with the fact that Alphabet waited three days to disclose that Schmidt had told the company he was stepping down, according to a filing — had raised questions. Some have speculated that the powerhouse was linked to sordid allegations similar to those leveled at Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein earlier this year. However, nothing of that nature has been revealed thus far, leaving open a storm of questions as to the cause of his sudden removal. The New York Post wrote that a source close to Schmidt said the move would: “Allow him to have a more “hands-on role” in developing artificial intelligence for defense.”
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) November 1, 2016
Schmidt gained notoriety during his tenure at Google and Alphabet for his involvement in politics as well as technology. He was a regular figure amongst the Hillary Clinton Presidential campaign, even going so far as to donate the use of a private Google jet for the campaign’s use. Press reports on the relationship between Schmidt and Clinton’s campaign referred to his role in Clinton’s campaign as “crucial.” Quartz wrote that Schmidt created a start-up, which was described as: “The stealthy, Eric Schmidt-backed startup that’s working to put Hillary Clinton in the White House.” Emails published last year by Wikileaks reveal that Schmidt’s support for the Clinton campaign dated as far back as 2015. The emails illustrate a close relationship between Schmidt and Clinton insiders, notably Bill Clinton and John Podesta, the Clinton campaign’s Chief of Staff.
One very early email exchange dating from 2014 shows Schmidt extending advice to Clinton campaign insiders on the best way to structure the entire campaign from the ground up. Robby Mook responded to Cheryl Mills regarding Schmidt’s suggestions by writing: “This is great and there’s a lot of helpful stuff in here but I think he and his effort should be focused on building the needed tools and not encompass campaign structure and launch dates, etc.”
Schmidt’s involvement in Democrat Party politics did not end with his instrumental role the Clinton campaign. He has been a regular speaker at Clinton Global Initiative events. According to The Washington Post, Schmidt joined Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, Al Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile, and election lawyer Marc Elias as a panel member of the Democratic Victory Taskforce. Though he is most well known politically for his involvement in Democratic establishment circles, over the years, Schmidt has funded politicians on both sides of the aisle.
Schmidt is also involved with a broad spectrum of philanthropic and NGO interests, ranging from the Council on Foreign Relations to the Trilateral Commission, the Broad Institute, and many others. He also served as a member of the United States President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) under Barack Obama and continues in that role under Donald Trump. Schmidt currently serves as the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the New America Foundation. His position within the global power structure was noted by The Guardian, who described Schmidt: “Bilderberg insider Eric Schmidt, who runs Google, once began a speech at Davos with the words: “I assume that everybody here agrees that globalization is wonderful.”
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been a long-time critic of Google. Assange authored “When Google Met Wikileaks” during his time under house arrest, detailing the various ways in which Google has become increasingly enmeshed within the structure of the American deep state. Wikileaks‘ extract from the book describes a revolving door between Google, the State Department, the United Nations and The Council On Foreign Relations. Assange describes the close ties between Schmidt and then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “Not only had Hillary Clinton’s people known that Eric Schmidt’s partner had visited me, but they had also elected to use her as a back channel.”
Assange added: “While WikiLeaks had been deeply involved in publishing the inner archive of the US State Department, the US State Department had, in effect, snuck into the WikiLeaks command center and hit me up for a free lunch.” Assange described Google’s evolution under Schmidt:
“Schmidt’s tenure as CEO saw Google integrate with the shadiest of US power structures as it expanded into a geographically invasive megacorporation… Long before company founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin hired Schmidt in 2001, their initial research upon which Google was based had been partly funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).48 And even as Schmidt’s Google developed an image as the overly friendly giant of global tech, it was building a close relationship with the intelligence community.”
This crossover between Google and intelligence agencies and military/state function, as described by Assange is echoed by the structure and executive makeup of Crowdstrike. The company, with substantial funding from a Google subsidiary, is headed by a number of former long-serving figures from the FBI. Crowdstrike served the Democratic Party during the 2016 Presidential campaign, which Schmidt was deeply embedded with himself, as shown in the contents of the Podesta email leak. Crowdstrike is also the only company to have examined DNC servers, and their word serves as the entirety of the basis for Russian hacking claims.
Press reports indicate that Alphabet has financed Google Capital. Acting as an arm of Alphabet, Google Capital then financed Crowdstrike to the tune of $100 million. Google Capital has rebranded, and currently goes by the name “CapitalG.” CapitalG maintains on their website that: “Our Google connection is our key asset. ” CapitalG reiterates that “CapitalG (formerly Google Capital) is a growth equity fund backed by Alphabet, Google’s parent company. ”
Disobedient Media has extensively reported on Crowdstrike and the convoluted role it has played in the Russian “hacking” saga stemming from the 2016 Presidential election. This author has often cited the work of journalist Adam Carter when reporting on the connection between the company and the Guccifer 2.0 persona. As Disobedient Media previously reported, Crowdstrike is the only entity that has examined the DNC’s servers. US authorities including the FBI have not been allowed to access them in order to independently verify the firm’s claim that Russians hacked the DNC. In fact, this claim was largely discredited due to the work of the independent analyst known as The Forensicator, who showed that Crowdstrike’s claim that Guccifer 2.0 hacked the DNC was extremely unlikely.
During the course of his in-depth research on the Guccifer 2.0 persona, Carter has indicated a belief that Crowdstrike higher-ups, including former FBI executive assistant director (EAD) of the Criminal, Cyber, Response, and Services Branch (CCRSB) Shawn Henry, may have been behind the creation of the Guccifer 2.0 persona in order to preemptively smear Wikileaks with claims of Russian hacking in the lead up to their publication of the DNC emails. If Carter’s assessment is proven true, it could be of vital importance in understanding the context surrounding Schmidt’s decision to step down as Executive Chairman of Alphabet’s Board of Directors.
Many of Crowdstrike’s former and current employees and executives have previously enjoyed government roles. Steven Chabinsky formerly served as Chief Risk Officer at Crowdstrike, after serving as Commissioner on the President’s Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity as well as 15 years with the FBI in cyber security roles. He also served as the senior cyber advisor to the United States Director of National Intelligence. The wife of Crowdstrike’s President, Laura Henry, serves as a Security Specialist with the Department of Justice, and has been involved with many significant cases. In essence, Crowdstrike’s roster of ex-government officials and its funding via Google subsidiaries provides an exemplary model for the type of revolving door between government and cyber firm that Assange described in his book, ‘When Google Met Wikileaks.’
While the impetus for Schmidt’s decision to step down from his executive position at Alphabet cannot be known at this time, speculation has surrounded the move in the days since it was announced. Possible reasons provided in the media range from sexual misconduct to Artificial Intelligence projects. However, one possible explanation for the sudden decision that has not previously been considered by legacy press, is that the investigation into Russian hacking claims made by Crowdstrike and the DNC may have turned up some unsavory information about the company or the involvement of Mr. Schmidt in the saga as an insider to Clinton’s campaign, and that this may have prompted him to step down without announcing a successor.
Disobedient Media will continue to provide coverage on this story as it develops.
Kieran Barr contributed to the content of this report.