CBS News is reporting that they have obtained information on evidence pointing to Trump campaign operatives being involved with the Russian election meddling operation as early as March 2016, before the major parties’ respective primary seasons had even concluded.
The new CBS report states:
‘CBS News has learned that U.S. investigators are looking into whether Trump campaign representatives had a role in helping Russian intelligence as it carried out cyberattacks on the Democratic National Committee and other political targets in March 2016.’
As CBS goes on to explain, this new information points to the investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia going deeper and farther back than originally reported.
Indeed, although Roger Stone and Carter Page, both disgraced Trump advisers, had contact with Russian operatives after March 2016, this new information suggests that there was collusion between Trump and the Russians before that time. The distinction is important for the effort to distinguish whether or not the Trump campaign “unwittingly” helped the Russians along or whether it was an intentional effort from the start.
In March 2016, as mentioned, the primary season in both of the nation’s two major political parties was still technically underway.
CBS says that March 2016 is also when a “declassified intelligence assessment” says that Russian hackers “began cyber operations aimed at the U.S. election.” That same assessment apparently goes on to report that these Russian hackers stole “large volumes of data from the DNC” in May of 2016. That information was then first posted online in June 2016.
The question then is what level, if any, of cooperation took place between the Trump campaign and the Russian hackers behind the thefts of data from the DNC. The data that was stolen included tens of thousands of private emails from figures including the now resigned head of the Democratic National Committee Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.
Mark Warner, a Democratic U.S. Senator from Virginia, termed what the Russians did with that information as having “weaponized” it while speaking earlier this week at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee on the Russian election meddling. The Russians employed tens of thousands of individuals for the purposes of spreading sensationalized tidbits of the stolen information online, tidbits which eventually compounded into a “disinformation” force strong enough to sink the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.
CBS says that part of the FBI’s ongoing investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election will seek to uncover who paid those professional trolls.
Trump and his team certainly haven’t done anything to help their case, seeing as sitting U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the disgraced and now resigned presidential National Security Adviser Michael Flynn have both been ratted out as having lied about meeting with Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergei Kisylak in the months ahead of Election Day 2016. Kisylak is a known intelligence gatherer for the Russians.
Other strikes against the Trump campaign include a secret meeting that Trump campaign staffer Carter Page had with still unidentified Russian individuals in June of 2016, along with an August 2016 tweet from Roger Stone which suggested that he had been tipped off as to or was otherwise aware of the content of the material stolen from the Democrats.
Featured Image via NICHOLAS KAMM/ AFP/Getty Images.