Surprise, surprise … or not. During testimony on Capitol Hill today, a cybersecurity expert testified that hackers attempted to breach a number of campaigns in the 2016 cycle, including Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign staffers — twice. The first attempt took place after he had withdrawn from the Republican presidential primary and launched his Senate re-election bid, and the second attempt took place yesterday:
Russian interference with American politics did not stop after the election, and prominent Republicans — including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Sen. Marco Rubio — have been targeted by coordinated social media attacks, cybersecurity experts told a Senate panel Thursday.
Rubio — a former primary opponent of President Donald Trump — announced at a Senate intelligence committee hearing on Russian meddling that during last year’s election his former campaign staff was targeted by hackers twice.
Rubio said the attacks came from computers using IP addresses located in Russia — once in July of last year, after he announced he would run again for the Senate and again, Wednesday morning. IP addresses do not necessarily confirm who conducted hacking, as it is relatively easy for hackers to mask their location.
“Former members of my presidential campaign team who had access to the internal information of my presidential campaign were targeted by IP addresses with an unknown location within Russia,” Rubio said Thursday. “That effort was unsuccessful. I would also inform the committee within the last 24 hours, at 10:45 a.m. yesterday, a second attempt was made, again, against former members of my presidential campaign team who had access to our internal information — again targeted from an IP address from an unknown location in Russia. And that effort was also unsuccessful.”
CNN’s chyron described this as a surprise to Rubio, although he appears to have been briefed on the security issue. The “surprise” in this case may be an insinuation that such activity harmed Rubio “anecdotally” while he was still in the presidential primary:
Curiously, Manu Raju also reported that Paul Ryan may have been targeted as well — not during his primary challenge from Paul Nehlen, but over the past week or so while pushing the American Health Care Act (AHCA). National security expert Clint Watts had described the efforts by Russian-based provocateurs as not just hacking but also a propaganda campaign intended to undermine confidence in the political system. Republicans hardly needed help with that on the AHCA, as they seemed unprepared from the start to agree on a unified approach to repealing and replacing ObamaCare.
If that’s the case, though, it undermines the argument that Russia is providing interference for Donald Trump. Let’s take the AHCA case first. Trump wrapped his arms around this plan from the beginning, going so far as to personally call conservative House Republicans to cajole them into backing the bill. Mark Sanford told the Post & Courier that OMB director Mick Mulvaney went so far as to pass along a threat from Trump to find a primary challenger in South Carolina to defeat Sanford next year.