U.S. tech giant Microsoft recently informed the campaign of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden that it may have been the target of a suspected hacking attempt by Russian state-backed actors, demonstrating Moscow’s continued efforts to interfere in and influence U.S. elections.
Hackers reportedly targeted staffers at the prominent campaign strategy and communications firm SKDKnickerbocker, which has worked on the campaigns of several past Democratic presidential candidates and is currently taking a lead role in supporting Biden’s run. Sources told Reuters that they had been trying to break into the firm’s networks for the past two months, but they appear to have failed to breach SKDK’s security. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the claim “nonsense.”
On Thursday, the U.S. Treasury Department also sanctioned four people accused of trying to interfere in the election on behalf of Russia. One is a member of the Ukrainian parliament, while the other three are Russian nationals employed by Russia’s Internet Research Agency, which was heavily involved in Moscow’s influence campaign during the 2016 presidential election.
Here for more. Thursday’s revelations are further evidence that Russia is actively working to interfere in the election in an effort to support President Donald Trump over Biden. Last month, U.S. intelligence officials said that Russia is employing a range of methods to hurt Biden’s campaign to help get Trump reelected, mirroring its efforts in 2016 to push Trump past former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. Although that assessment also concluded that China is considering its own influence campaign and preferred to see Trump lose, Russia is still considered a far greater threat.
Can’t escape the past. The issue of Russian interference has relentlessly followed Trump since the investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into alleged collusion in 2016 between his campaign and Moscow, and it won’t go away.
On Thursday, an official in the Department of Homeland Security said that Chad Wolf, the department’s acting secretary, told him to stop intelligence assessments of Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election because it “made the President look bad.” He told him to focus instead on similar efforts by China and Iran—an order that apparently came directly from the White House.
(Foreign policy morning brief from my inbox)