- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Russian hackers didn’t release any documents obtained by breaching the Republican Party ahead of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, FBI Director James Comey said Monday, raising questions about the publication last year of emails associated with prominent GOP lawmakers including John McCain and Lindsey Graham.

Attempts “to penetrate organizations associated with the Republican Party” were made during last year’s race, Mr. Comey told the House Intelligence Committee Monday, echoing the findings of a January 2017 intelligence community assessment that determined Russian intelligence used cyberattacks and other means to interfere in last year’s election.

Yet while those attempts infamously resulted in the release of damaging Democratic Party emails by the antisecrecy website WikiLeaks, Mr. Comey testified that the hackers involved declined to air the Republicans’ dirty laundry.

“[T]here were not releases of material taken, hacked, from any Republican associated organizations,” Mr. Comey said at Monday’s hearing.

A website implicated in the Russian hacking campaign did release GOP emails, however, rekindling questions over their origin and authenticity, as well as the intentions of the individuals responsible.

Russian intelligence deployed at two of its own conduits to publish documents obtained during the course of its influence campaign in addition to utilizing WikiLeaks, according to the U.S. intelligence community, including a pseudonymous persona named Guccifer 2.0 and a website of its own called DCLeaks.

Though barely noticed at the time, DCLeaks published a collection of about 300 emails in June 2016 purportedly obtained from various Republican targets, including staffers of Arizona Senator John McCain and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, among other GOP officials. Security researchers linked DCLeaks to a Kremlin-linked hacking group about two months later.

Mr. Comey “[misled] Congress … when he stated that emails on Republicans were not released during 2016,” WikiLeaks tweeted after Monday’s hearing. The FBI director never said Republican emails weren’t released, however; instead, rather, Mr. Comey said that none of the emails published during last year’s race were obtained by a GOP breach.

Emails published by DCLeaks in June could have been acquired by any which means and don’t necessarily imply any GOP organizations were hacked directly. Nonetheless, the supposed Kremlin-ordered cybercampaign may have affected leading Republican lawmakers, even if the FBI director’s comments were interpreted otherwise.

Speaking to CNN in December, Mr. Graham said his own “campaign account” was hacked by Russians who had apparently breached a vendor utilized during his failed 2016 White House run.

Mr. Graham’s office did not immediately respond Tuesday when his office was asked to comment on the FBI director’s remark. It wasn’t immediately clear if any other individuals were affected by the alleged vendor breach.

The FBI is currently investigating potential Russia involvement in last year’s race, and typically does not comment on active probes.

Mr. Comey made an unusual exception during Monday’s hearing when he confirmed the existence of the investigation, the likes of which is running separate from no fewer than two other probes in the House and Senate.

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