Well this is big news. A Florida GOP operative has, apparently, admitted to colluding with the Russian hackers who sought to alter the course of the 2016 election.
There are two notable points here. For one, this is a clear instance of the kind of collusion that federal investigators are looking for in the Trump team. The fact that this Florida GOP operative has admitted to working with the hackers helps underline the point that no, the Russia investigation isn’t a “witch hunt” like President Trump would have you believe.
Rather, it is exploring very real possibilities as to what went on behind the scenes of the 2016 election beyond what is already known.
In addition, although this latter point was already known, the case of this Florida GOP operative shows that the Russians have long maintained a much broader goal in this whole thing than simply helping Donald Trump win the White House.
Aaron Nevins, who Gizmodo identifies as a former aide to Florida State Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, messaged the Guccifer 2.0 Twitter account in 2016 and requested data on Florida Democratic House candidates and on Democratic voter turnout. The Wall Street Journal, which is the outlet to originally carry Nevins’s confessions, did not provide screenshots of his conversations with the Guccifer 2.0 account.
Guccifer 2.0 on Twitter is, according to American intelligence assessments, a front for the Kremlin-directed hackers that hacked the Democratic National Committee in the lead up to the 2016 election. Nevins posted anonymously to his blog, HelloFLA, in August 2016 with details that he’d gotten from Guccifer 2.0.
One of the Democratic candidates targeted by Nevins, Randy Perkins, ended up losing the race to a Republican. It’s not clear what role Nevins’s data leaks had in Perkins’s loss, but the blogger did post a “vulnerabilities assessment” of the candidate, which is basically a list of potential talking points against him.
What this whole thing helps underline is, yet again, that the Russian efforts to influence the course of the 2016 election weren’t borne purely out of wanting to help Trump; they’re much more vitriolic than that. The Kremlin would dump Trump in a heartbeat if it came down to it.
Trump associate Roger Stone has admitted to being in contact with Guccifer 2.0, but he’s dismissed his interactions with the Twitter account as innocuous — even though he had, at one point, seeming foreknowledge of what data would be leaked next. Stone is one of the Trump associates under scrutiny by the FBI.
Nevins has similarly dismissed his interactions and collusion with Guccifer 2.0 as innocuous. Even though the intelligence community has provided plenty of evidence to support the assertion that Russia is behind the DNC hacks, Nevins apparently doesn’t believe it. If it was the Russians, however, he doesn’t think much of that, saying, “If your interests align, never shut any doors in politics.”
It is not immediately clear if Nevins will face any legal consequence for his actions, and neither is it clear, as mentioned, whether or not his actions had a tangible impact on Florida House races.
Gizmodo notes that Nevins appears to be a “total f*cking crackpot,” having apparently tried to shut down a highway in Broward County, Florida, to hold an “amateur car race” on Election Day.
Featured Image via Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images.