Days before U.S. President Donald Trump is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections has again heated up with the indictment of a dozen Russian intelligence officers. The indictments are another strike against the claims from Trump and his allies that it’s all just a witch hunt.
Contained in the court filing alongside the indictments is a piece of information that brings the meddling yet again closer to home than before. According to the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, an unnamed 2016 Congressional candidate successfully obtained damaging information on their opponent from Russian hackers. They got the info, according to Mueller’s team, through communication with the “Guccifer 2.0” online hacker persona, used as a front by those behind the 2016 hacks of Democratic Party email accounts and the like.
Mueller does not identify the candidate in question any further. There is no immediate indication as to whether that candidate won the race in question or not, as there’s no indication of whether they are a Democrat or a Republican, although such information may certainly be on the way in some form.
The damaging information request and transfer may be related to the race to represent Florida’s 26th Congressional district. Stolen internal evaluations of the campaigns of two Democrats in that race went up on the web on August 15, 2016, which is when Mueller says the request for dirt was made “on or about.”
The two Democrats were Joe Garcia and Annette Taddeo; the information put up on the web disparaged Taddeo’s campaign and praised aspects of Garcia’s. He went on to win the Democratic primary and lose in the general election to incumbent Republican Carlos Curbelo; Taddeo went on to eventually win a Florida state Senate seat in a special election.
The request could have been made by anyone who had a stake in that situation, from Taddeo to Curbelo, having been either concurrent to or sparked by the release of the aforementioned internal Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee info. The info, if it’s something other than what was publicly posted, could have had any level of relevance to the race; the importance of the publicly posted material has been called into question thanks to coverage of it just never taking off.
Others to communicate with that same Guccifer 2.0 persona include past Trump adviser Roger Stone, whose activities have been under scrutiny as a part of the broader Russia investigation. Trump associates, including the president’s own son Donald Trump Jr., tried to obtain dirt from Russian interests on an opponent — Hillary Clinton — just as the unnamed Congressional candidate did. Trump Jr. in particular has played down the significance of those efforts because little concrete and helpful for the Trump campaign supposedly came of them, but that doesn’t erase his glee at the prospect of collusion.
Whether Trump Jr. or any unnamed Congressional candidate will face legal consequences remains to be seen although when it came to the election meddling indictments of Russian intelligence officers announced Friday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein made it clear that no American was being charged with a crime — although five Americans have faced charges as the investigation has gone on for other crimes and there are certainly documented American connections to the meddling efforts.
Mueller revealed one such intriguing connection in Friday court filings, noting that after Trump made his infamous campaign call for Russia to obtain emails missing from Hillary Clinton’s private server, Russian hackers targeted Clinton campaign emails for the first time.
Very interesting that Mueller chose to include “for the first time” in the indictment. https://t.co/rxQ6odiVrd
— Matthew Miller (@matthewamiller) July 13, 2018
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