Russian Hackers Gained ‘Limited’ Access to RNC, Comey Says
David Sanger, Matt Flegenheimer, NYT, Jan 10 2017
WASHINGTON — The director of the FBI, James Comey, told a Senate hearing on Tuesday that Russian hackers had penetrated the RNC’s computer records, but he called it a “limited penetration of old RNC computer systems that were “no longer in use.” Comey’s statement was significant because the RNC has said it did not lose data to the Russians because of its strong cyber-security. Trump has repeated that assertion, and has also said weaknesses in DNC systems had allowed them to be hacked. While Comey did not go into detail, he appeared to be referring to a Russian-led attack on a contractor in Tennessee used by the RNC. FBI have said on background that a single email server used by that contractor had been penetrated. But it was going out of service, and contained outdated material that the Russians probably found of little value. People with direct knowledge of the server’s contents said it had been used by the Two Amigos, Lindsey Graham and Walnuts McCain. A congressional aide in Graham’s office said the hacking of the email server in question occurred in Jun 2016. The Graham campaign was using the server to send news clips and campaign releases, the aide said. In an unclassified report released last Friday, the intelligence community reported that the Russians had attacked “Republican-affiliated” organizations, but that they had chosen not to make any of that data public. Their report made no specific reference to the RNC. Pressed on the issue by Susan Collins, Comey said Tuesday that there was “evidence of hacking directed at the state level” and at the RNC, “but that it was old stuff.” He said there was no evidence “that the current RNC” or the Trump campaign had been hacked. Senior intel boxtops testified on Tuesday for the first time since the release of the declassified report on Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. The panel, convened by the Senate Intelligence Committee, included DNI Clapper, NSA and CYBERCOM head Rogers, and DCI Brennan. Comey also testified. Clapper and Rogers also appeared last week before the Senate Armed Services Committee, where Clapper suggested that Trump’s public skepticism about intelligence conclusions had undermined the community’s work. Clapper said:
There’s a difference between skepticism and disparagement.
Last week’s testimony doubled as a celebration of intel boxtops, with senators from both parties thanking them community for its efforts, in an implicit rebuttal of Trump, this hearing seemed likely to invite more aggressive questioning. The declassified report, released shortly after Trump was briefed on Friday, contained little hard evidence to prove the agencies’ claims that the Russian government was responsible for the election hack, prompting attacks from Trump supporters who view the effort as an attempt to delegitimize his election. Differences in the composition of the committees could also be a factor. The Armed Services Committee includes the Two Amigos, Graham & McCain. The Intelligence Dommittee’s chairman is Richard Burr, who advised the Trump campaign. Tom Cotton, a rare member of both committees, seemed to be Trump’s most conspicuous ally at the hearing last week. He denounced the “imprecise language” that Russia “hacked the election,” and asked Clapper to confirm that actual balloting had not been affected. Cotton also pushed back against the conventional wisdom that Putin favored Trump over Hillary Clinton. The report last week made clear that Putin did favor Trump, citing the Russian president’s past success dealing with “Western political leaders whose business interests made them more disposed to deal with Russia.” Russia’s motive “evolved over the course of the campaign,” the report said, focusing at times on undermining Clinton, when she seemed more likely to win, but eventually developing “a clear preference for Trump.” After receiving his briefing, Trump acknowledged for the first time that Russia had sought to hack into the DNC, but he insisted that the effort had played no role in his election and he said nothing about the conclusion that Putin preferred him to Clinton. On Tuesday, Mark Warner, the committee’s vice chairman, called the election hacking “one of the most serious events of my public life.” At times, Democrats on the committee steered the conversation toward whether intel boxtops were investigating any link between the Russians and Trump’s campaign, but Comey declined to discuss it, saying:
Especially in a public forum, we never confirm or deny any investigation.
Comey cited his ambiguous letter less than two weeks before the election disclosing new questions about emails on her private server. Angus King, who supported Clinton, commented:
The irony of you making that statement here I cannot avoid.
Comey, seeking to establish a nonpartisan air, later joked:
I hope I’ve demonstrated by now I’m tone deaf when it comes to politics, and that’s the way it should be.
Rethugs raised few doubts about the intel boxtops’ conclusions, but they dwelled little on their finding that Putin had a clear preference for Trump. Marco Rubio suggested that Russia had achieved its broader goal of sowing “chaos and disorder” in the electoral system, saying:
There was one nominee for president warning about fraud in the election, and then after the election, we have some on the other side questioning the legitimacy of the president-elect because of Russian interference. And we have the president-elect questioning the credibility of the intelligence community because of its findings. This sounds like a pretty effective and successful effort to sow chaos and undermine credibility of our leaders and of our government institutions.
Russia hacked Republican state campaigns but not Trump’s: FBI head
Dustin Volz, Jonathan Landay, Reuters, Jan 10 2017
FASCHINGSTEIN – Russia hacked into Republican state political campaigns and old email domains of the RNC, but there is no evidence it successfully penetrated Trump’s campaign, Comey said on Tuesday. Comey told Congress critturs that Russia did not release information obtained from the state campaigns or the old RNC email domains, buttressing the view that Moscow tried to help Trump against Clinton in the 2016 campaign. Pindo intel agencies on Friday released an assessment that Putin ordered a covert effort to help Trump’s electoral chances by discrediting Clinton. The report, which omitted classified details, was the government’s starkest public description of what it says was a Russian effort to manipulate the Pindosi electoral process by leaking hacked emails from Democrats. Comey told the critturs that the FBI “did not develop any evidence that the Trump campaign, or the current RNC, was successfully hacked.” He did not say whether Russia had tried to hack Trump’s campaign. Trump’s incoming chief of staff Reince Priebus said on Sunday that Trump accepts the intel community’s conclusions that Russia was responsible, and that further action may be taken against Moscow. Comey declined to comment on whether or not the FBI might be investigating links between Russia and associates of Trump. The FBI director was pressed by Senator Ron Wyden to publicly provide a declassified answer to the question before Jan 20, the day Trump will be inaugurated, but Comey suggested he would unable to do so. Comey appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee along with the DNI, the DCI and the chief of the NSA at a time of controversy in Washington over Russia’s alleged role in attempting to influence the election, with Dems calling for an independent commission to investigate the matter and Thugs worried that the affair might call into question the legitimacy of Trump’s victory. Comey said there was evidence Russia hacked Republican state-level political campaigns and “old” email domains that the RNC was no longer using. In contrast, Friday’s report assessed that Russian military intelligence used intermediaries such as WikiLeaks, DCLeaks.com and the Guccifer 2.0 “persona” to release emails that it had acquired from the DNC + Podesta as part of the effort to help Trump and harm Clinton. The DNC denied “multiple requests” made by the FBI to examine its hacked servers, Comey said. He added that his agents relied on a forensic analysis conducted by the cyber security firm CrowdStrike, which was hired by the DNC to help clean up the hack when it was detected last spring. Senior senators introduced legislation on Tuesday seeking to impose a wide range of sanctions on Russia over its cyber activities and actions in Syria and Ukraine.