- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 5, 2019

The FBI is investigating bogus text messages sent to Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives by someone posing as Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary, Alyssa Farah, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

Citing several unnamed sources familiar with the matter, the newspaper reported that federal investigators are probing fake messages received by a number of GOP lawmakers purportedly sent by Ms. Farah, a former House staffer.

The FBI did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the House Republican conference chairwoman, is aware of the messages and referred the matter to the office of the House Sergeant at Arms, a spokesperson for the congresswoman told The Wall Street Journal, the newspaper reported.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, an Air Force veteran and member of multiple House committees, received the messages and has contacted authorities, a spokesperson for his office added.

“For months, we have referred these hoaxes to law enforcement, but only recently has there been a renewed interest to address the issue,” said Maura Gillespie, a spokeswoman for Mr. Kinzinger.

“Congressman Kinzinger is eager to cooperate with law enforcement as they see fit,” she told The Journal.

Several lawmakers have received the texts, and at least one has engaged with the sender, a person familiar with the matter told the newspaper.

The messages “sought the whereabouts of certain lawmakers and their availability for meetings,” the report said.

The White House considers the texts to be a potential security threat and has blocked a phone number associated with the messages from contacting White House phones, an administration official added, according to the report.

Indeed, similar messages sent by individuals posing as government officials have previously proven consequential for President Trump’s administration.

In 2017, a British web developer posing as various White House officials emailed members of the Trump administration, elicited responses and published the results.

More recently, cybersecurity firms FireEye and CrowdStrike warned in Nov. 2018 that hackers associated with the Russian government were impersonating U.S. State Department officials in malicious emails sent to targets in the U.S. government and defense sectors.

The Federal Election Commission ruled last month, meanwhile, that lawmakers may use leftover campaign funds toward covering costs associated with personal cybersecurity-related expenses.

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