2016 Presidential Campaign Hacking Fast Facts

Here’s a look at hacking incidents during the 2016 presidential campaign and allegations by the US that the Russian government meddled in the election. Both Republicans and Democrats have issued calls for a deeper probe of Russian interference.

Overviews by CNN:
Timeline: What we know about the Trump campaign, his White House and Russia (3/20/2017)

Intel report: Putin directly ordered effort to influence election (1/6/2017)

Clapper: ‘Disparagement’ of intel agents cause for worry (1/5/2017)

White House announces retaliation against Russia: Sanctions, ejecting diplomats (12/29/2016)

Why the Obama administration didn’t respond earlier to Russian hacks (12/13/2016)

Russian hacking and the 2016 election, explained (12/12/2016)

FBI investigations into Trump-Russia ties yield little (11/1/2016)

New DC routine: Wake up, search WikiLeaks, wince (10/27/2016)

US finds growing evidence Russia feeding emails to WikiLeaks (10/13/2016)

WikiLeaks posts apparent excerpts of Clinton Wall Street speeches (10/7/2016)

Is Trump right? Could a 400-pound couch potato have hacked the DNC? (9/27/2016)

How Russian hacking has tied US government in knots (9/9/2016)

Who wins if Vladimir Putin meddles in the US election? (7/26/2016)

Sources: US officials warned DNC of hack months before the party acted (7/25/2016)

Timeline:
June 14, 2016 – The Washington Post reports hackers working for the Russian government accessed the Democratic National Committee’s computer system, stealing oppositional research on Donald Trump and viewing staffers’ emails and chat exchanges. The Kremlin, however, denies that the government was linked to the hack, and a US official tells CNN that investigators have not yet concluded that the cyberattack was directed by the Russian government.

June 15, 2016 – A cybersecurity firm hired by the DNC posts a public notice on its website describing an attack on the political committee’s computer network by two groups associated with Russian intelligence. According to the post, two Russian-backed groups called “Cozy Bear” and “Fancy Bear” tunneled into the committee’s computer system. In response, a blogger called Guccifer 2.0 claims that he alone conducted the hack, not the Russians. As proof, he posts internal DNC memos and opposition research on Trump. Furthermore, Guccifer 2.0 claims to have passed along thousands of files to WikiLeaks. Trump offers his own theory on the origins of the attack: suggesting in a statement that the DNC hacked itself to distract from Hillary Clinton’s email scandal.

July 22, 2016 – Days before the Democratic National Convention, WikiLeaks posts nearly 20,000 emails hacked from the DNC server. The documents include notes in which DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz insults staffers from the Bernie Sanders campaign and messages that suggest the organization was favoring Clinton rather than remaining neutral. Wasserman Schultz resigns in the aftermath of the leak.

July 25, 2016 – The FBI announces it has launched an investigation into the DNC hack. Although the statement doesn’t indicate that the agency has a particular suspect or suspects in mind, US officials tell CNN they think the cyberattack is linked to Russia.

July 27, 2016 – During a press conference, Trump declares Russia may have hacked the State Department. He connects the suspected Russian cyberattack on the DNC to Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was Secretary of State. “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” says Trump. Newt Gingrich, a Trump surrogate, defends Trump in a Tweet, dismissing the comment as a “joke.”

August 12, 2016 – Hackers publish cell phone numbers and personal email addresses for Nancy Pelosi and other members of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Pelosi says she has received “obscene and sick calls” from strangers. She advises targeted colleagues not to allow children or family members to answer the phone or read text messages.

September 1, 2016 – During an interview with Bloomberg News, President Vladimir Putin says that he and the Russian government have no ties to the hackers. He says that the identity of the culprit or culprits is not as important as the content of the leaks, and ultimately the hackers revealed important information for voters.

September 22, 2016 – Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Adam Schiff, ranking members of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, issue a joint statement declaring that based on information they received during congressional briefings, they believe that Russian intelligence agencies are carrying out a plan to interfere with the election. They call on Putin to order a halt to the activities.

September 26, 2016 – During a presidential debate with Clinton, Trump questions whether the DNC cyberattack was carried out by a state-sponsored group or a lone hacker. “It could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”

October-November 2016 – Over the course of a month, WikiLeaks publishes more than 58,000 messages hacked from the account of John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman.

October 6, 2016 – DCLeaks, a self-described collective of “hacktivists” seeking to expose the influence of special interests on elected officials, publishes a batch of documents stolen from Clinton ally Capricia Marshall.

October 7, 2016 – The Department of Homeland Security and the Office of National Intelligence on Election Security issues a statement declaring that the intelligence community is “confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of emails from US persons and institutions.” According to the statement, document releases on websites WikiLeaks and DC Leaks mirror the methods and motivations of past Russian-directed cyberattacks.

November 29, 2016 – A group of Democratic senators sends a letter to President Barack Obama calling on intelligence agencies to declassify information about “the Russian Government and the US election.” Sources later tell CNN that new intelligence has been shared with lawmakers suggesting that Russia’s purpose for meddling in the election was to sway voters towards Trump, rather than broadly undermining confidence in the system.

December 9, 2016 – The Washington Post reports the CIA has determined that Russian hacking was conducted to boost Trump and hurt Clinton during the presidential campaign. The Trump transition team dismisses the CIA’s findings, releasing a statement, “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.” President Obama asks intelligence agencies to review the hacking incidents in 2016 and other cyberattacks on political campaigns dating back to 2008. The agencies are asked to deliver their findings before Obama leaves office on January 20. A Russian foreign ministry spokesman expresses skepticism about the review and asks US investigators to share their evidence of government-sponsored cyber espionage. Meanwhile, media critics question the Post’s reliance on anonymous sources for the CIA report and advise readers to be wary of claims in the article due to the lack of publicly available evidence to support the spy agency’s conclusions.

December 10, 2016 – John McCain, Chuck Schumer, Lindsey Graham and Jack Reed issue a joint statement calling on Congressional Republicans and Democrats to work cooperatively on securing future elections and stopping cyber attacks.

December 11, 2016 – Sources tell CNN that although US intelligence agencies share the belief that Russia played a role in the computer hacks, there is disagreement between the CIA and the FBI about the intent of the meddling. While the CIA assessment shows that the Russians may have sought to damage Clinton and help Trump, the FBI has yet to find proof that the attacks were orchestrated to elect the Republican candidate, according to unnamed officials. Furthermore, some sources say the hackers also infiltrated the Republican National Committee’s computers.

December 12, 2016 – CNN reports that Russian hackers accessed computer accounts of Republican lawmakers and GOP organizations. A source with knowledge of the investigation says that even though hackers breached the GOP computers, they opted not to release documents en masse.

December 13, 2016 – The New York Times publishes a detailed account of the DNC’s delayed response to initial warnings in September of 2015 that its network had been infiltrated by hackers. The report outlines how phishing emails and communication failures led to a sweeping cyberattack. The story also lays out evidence that Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks were linked to Russia. A second article in the Times chronicles the hacking of Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, housed in the same building as the DNC. According to the report, Guccifer 2.0 stole tens of thousands of documents and offered them to reporters in districts where Democratic candidates were engaged in competitive races for House seats.

December 29, 2016 – President Obama issues an executive order with sanctions against Russia. The order names six Russian individuals who allegedly took part in the presidential campaign hacking. Additionally, 35 Russian diplomats are ordered to leave the US within 72 hours.

January 3, 2017 – Julian Assange of WikiLeaks says that the Russian government did not provide him with the hacked DNC emails during an interview with Sean Hannity on the Fox News Channel.

January 3-4, 2017 – In a series of tweets, Trump questions the US intelligence community’s claims that the Russian government interfered with the election. He alleges that intelligence officials have delayed a scheduled meeting with him but sources tell CNN that there has been no change to the schedule. Trump also cites Assange’s interview to back his assertion that a rogue hacker, not the Russian government, may have meddled in the election.

January 5-6, 2017 – Intelligence officials meet separately with Obama and Trump to present the results of their probe into cyber espionage during the presidential campaign. After the president and the president-elect are briefed, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence releases a declassified version of the report. According to the report, hackers did not breach voting machines or computers that tallied election results but Russians meddled in other ways. Among the findings: Putin ordered a multifaceted influence campaign that included hacking and pro-Trump propaganda; bracing for a possible Clinton win, Russian bloggers were prepared to spread a hashtag #DemocracyRIP on Election Night; paid social media users, aka “trolls,” shared stories about Clinton controversies to create a cloud of scandal around her campaign.

January 6-7, 2017 – Trump issues a statement after his meeting with intelligence officials. In the statement, he acknowledges that the Russian government may have been linked to the DNC hacking but declares that cyberattacks did not impact the outcome of the election because voting machines were not breached. In a series of tweets, he repeats that hacking did not affect election results and says that he wants to improve relations with Russia.

February 9, 2017 – The Washington Post reports that Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn discussed sanctions with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the presidential transition. Vice President Mike Pence and other Trump administration officials said in January that Flynn did not talk about policy when he spoke to the ambassador. The Washington Post story is based on interviews with nine officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity. One day after the report is published, Trump tells reporters that he has not read the story and says he will look into it.

February 13, 2017 – Flynn resigns. In his resignation letter, he explains that, “because of the fast pace of events, I inadvertently briefed the Vice President Elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian ambassador.”

February 17, 2017 – Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee meet with FBI Director James Comey in a closed-door session. One attendee tells CNN that Russia was the topic of the briefing and after the meeting, committee member Marco Rubio says in a tweet that the Senate will conduct a bipartisan investigation into alleged meddling by Putin.

March 10, 2017 – In an interview with the Washington Times, occasional Trump adviser Roger Stone says that he had limited interactions via Twitter with Guccifer 2.0 during the campaign. He says the exchanges were “completely innocuous.” The following day, the New York Times publishes its own interview with Stone, in which he says that his communication with Guccifer 2.0 took place after the DNC hack, proving there was no collusion with the Trump campaign to arrange the cyber attack.

March 20, 2017 – During a hearing on Capitol Hill, FBI director James Comey confirms that the FBI is investigating links between Russia and members of the Trump campaign.

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