Robert Mueller’s investigation took a dramatic turn on Friday, as grand jury indictments were handed out to 12 different Russians, all formally associated with Russian intelligence, for their hack of the Democratic National Committee in 2016.
On the same day, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats warned America in the direst of terms to watch out for Russian cyber-thugs this fall. Coats told us to expect “Unprecedented levels of cyber-hacking,” and said, “The warning lights are blinking red again.”
These two issues are directly tied together. The Mueller indictments laid out detailed allegations of how Russia sought to manipulate Americans through social media, exploit computerized state voting systems and hack the email accounts of Democratic committees and party leaders.
The part of the story these indictments have shed light on focused on how Russian cyber-thugs took cues from the orange malignance in the White House himself, as the Russian government laid out its plan to boost Trump’s bid for the White House.
The court documents also highlight alleged collaboration between Russian hackers and “Organization 1”, clearly fitting the WikiLeaks profile, to steal data from and harm the campaign of Hillary Clinton. We have given some examples below.
“For example, on or about July 27, 2016, the Conspirators attempted after hours to spearphish for the first time email accounts at a domain hosted by a third-party provider and used by Clinton’s personal office.”
July 27 2016 was the night of the first 2016 presidential debate. During that debate, Trump memorably said “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing… I think you will probably be rewarded mightily…”
Barton Gellman, a leading intelligence reporter, responded to this revelation in a tweet: “This is OMFG material. Trump explicitly asks ‘Russia’ to hack Clinton, and Russian intelligence starts trying *the same day*. We look for secret evidence of ‘collusion’ but Trump’s end was always in plain sight. Now we know Russia took his request as a guide to further crimes.”
The indictment also made specific mention of “a person who was in regular contact with senior members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump,” seeking to “help u.”
That got people talking. Right away. And not long after, the conversation came around to Roger Stone.
Stone has admitted that he is the unnamed Trump campaign regular who corresponded with Russian hackers such as Guccifer 2.0, now known to be a creation of the Russian intelligence services.
Stone previously boasted screenshots of the conversation online, in which Guccifer 2.0 wrote, “please tell me if i can help u anyhow… it would be a great pleasure to me.” That was back in the good old days before the indictments started coming down and dozens of people started going to prison.
Since then, his tone has changed a little.
“My 24-word exchange with someone on Twitter claiming to be Guccifer 2.0 is benign,” he pleaded in a text to Rolling Stone.
You’re entitled to your opinion, Rog, but the rest of the world does not agree.
In related news, photos have been circulating the Internet of Roger Stone’s old partner and possible future cellmate Paul Manafort, disheveled and miserable and inside of a prison cell. It might not be as spiffy as the office of their old lobbying firm, but it will have to do.
Regular readers of Millennial Democrats will not require many reminders of how the Russians pulled off this act of cyber-warfare against the world’s most powerful country. We lived through it and were on the front lines of the battle against it.
There is a certain sense of vindication, in seeing what we all have been warning people about these last two horrible years laid right down in black and white. Roger Stone is almost certainly going to prison, and that too is a decent consolation prize.
But there’s also a tremendous frustration at the lack of an appropriate response coming down from the White House.
Our top cyber-security expert was sacked and his department gutted months ago. Trump has opened the doors for new Russian hacking, just as he called for their help on the televised debate two years ago.
Trump is still meeting with Putin on Monday, and he’s still holding rallies for his base on a regular basis. History will revile him for this and for everything else. Until the Blue Wave comes in November, we must draw our comfort from that.
In the meantime, we’ve got hard fighting up ahead, and we are ready for it. This is what we’ve been training for, ever since the elections.
In the weeks to come, we’re going to be focusing a lot on cybersecurity measures we can take, and on key Democratic primary races that the Russians or Republicans may target. Gaslighting is likely to be the least of it.
The Mueller indictments tell us how the Russians did this to us last time. The Coats warning tells us that it’s coming again. Going forward, we’ll be filling the need to study the first carefully so that we’ll be ready for the second. The Russians are coming, and we’ve got to hold the line.