Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Marco Rubio says Russians tried to hack his presidential campaign team twice

WASHINGTON — Florida Sen. Marco Rubio revealed Thursday that apparent Russian hackers twice targeted his former presidential campaign team — the latest coming this week — adding new intrigue to the drama gripping Washington.

"In July of 2016, shortly after I announced that I would seek re-election to the United States Senate, 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. That effort was unsuccessful," Rubio said during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing.

"I'd also inform the committee that within the last 24 hours, at 10:45 a.m. (Wednesday), 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."

Earlier in the hearing, a security expert testified that Rubio "anecdotally suffered" from Russian social media disinformation campaigns — and that other Republican presidential primary candidates, including Jeb Bush and Sen. Lindsey Graham, also were targeted.

Clint Watts, a senior fellow at George Washington University's Center for Cyber and Homeland Security, said Russians put out some negative information on Trump "but it was 90 percent positive." Overall, he said, the effort was about "pumping up Trump while tamping down the others."

What's more, Watts said the Russians continue to interfere in U.S. politics, recently targeting House Speaker Paul Ryan. Watts told reporters that trolling networks his research institute monitors were disseminating propaganda about dissension in the ranks of the Republican Party regarding the vote for Ryan as speaker of the House.

Rubio, who dropped out of the race after losing to Trump in the March 15 Florida primary, did not elaborate beyond his statements, nor did a spokesman or a former campaign official.

Rubio sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is probing Russian meddling in the election. The House Intelligence Committee is, too, but that effort has become engulfed in controversy over questions about whether the Republican chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes of California, had colluded with White House officials.

When hackers gave Wiki­Leaks reams of damaging information about Hillary Clinton, Rubio refused to discuss what he said was an attempt by a foreign government to influence the electoral process. "I want to warn my fellow Republicans who may want to capitalize politically on these leaks: Today it is the Democrats. Tomorrow it could be us," he said in October.

Trump, meanwhile, celebrated the disclosures, including several times in Florida.

Months later, questions about Russia have dominated the news and have put the Trump administration on the defensive. Trump has deemed it fake news pushed by Democrats, and has responded by raising discredited allegations that the Obama administration wiretapped his offices.

Trump's history of spreading unsubstantiated and false claims, from widespread voter fraud and "rigged" elections to questions about Obama's citizenship, has aided propaganda efforts, Watts said. "Part of the reason active measures have worked in this U.S. election is because the commander in chief has used Russian active measures at times against his opponents."

He said fake Russian-created social media accounts continue to push conspiracies at Trump in the hopes he will run with them. "Until we get a firm basis on fact and fiction in our own country . . . we're going to have a big problem," Watts said.

Thursday's hearing focused mostly on how experts say the Kremlin uses technology and disinformation to influence the opinions of Americans and not on the U.S. policy toward Russia. Trump, throughout the campaign and since he has been president, has expressed an interest in improving relations with Russia.

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the committee's senior Democrat, talked about disinformation spread in the final weeks of the campaign through key states such as Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. One question he said he wants the committee's investigation to answer is whether Russia would have the ability to do that without the assistance of someone with a deep knowledge of American politics.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., raised concerns that the committee's investigation is not focused enough on following the money, which includes looking at the president's finances and that of his business partners. Wyden said fishy real estate deals and money laundering might mean that the "Russian government may be only a step or two away" from American institutions.

Warner and Republican Chairman Richard Burr of North Carolina have pledged cooperation on the committee's investigation of Russia's influence during the campaign, distancing themselves from the fractured House Intelligence Committee's investigation that has been fraught with partisanship.

Information from the Associated Press and the Washington Post was used in this report. Contact Alex Leary at aleary@tampabay.com. Follow @learyreports.

Sen. Marco Rubio says Russian hackers targeted his team as recently as Wednesday.

Sen. Marco Rubio says Russian hackers targeted his team as recently as Wednesday.

Marco Rubio says Russians tried to hack his presidential campaign team twice 03/30/17 [Last modified: Friday, March 31, 2017 1:15am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Mother of woman killed in Charlottesville say she will not speak to Trump

    Nation

    The mother of the woman who was run down by a car during violent clashes in Charlottesville, Va., said Friday that after seeing President Donald Trump's comments equivocating between white supremacist protesters and those demonstrating against them, she does not wish to speak with him.

    Susan Bro, mother to Heather Heyer, speaks during a memorial for her daughter on Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017, at the Paramount Theater in Charlottesville, Va.  Heyer was killed Saturday, when a car rammed into a crowd of people protesting a white nationalist rally.  [Andrew Shurtleff | Daily Progress via AP]
  2. Florida's unemployment rate remains the same

    Markets

    After four consecutive months of decline, Florida's unemployment rate is leveling out. The state's unemployment rate was 4.1 percent in July, the same as June according to state figures released Friday.

    Florida's unemployment rate was 4.1 percent in July, unchanged from June, state figures released Friday said. Pictured is a job fair. | [Times file photo]
  3. Tina Fey urges Americans: Stay home from neo-Nazi rallies. Eat a sheet cake instead. (w/ video)

    The Feed

    Tina Fey is fuming about last weekend's violence in Charlottesville, home to her alma mater, the University of Virginia.

    In a surprise appearance on SNL's Weekend Update: Summer Edition Thursday night, Fey urged Americans not to get into screaming matches with neo-Nazis. Instead, she said, "order a cake with the American flag on it ... and just eat it." [Photo from video]
  4. Trump bashing aside, Democrats struggle for united message

    State Roundup

    It should be a golden opportunity for Democrats: The nonstop controversy surrounding President Donald Trump and the failure of Republicans on Capitol Hill to get much done.

    Democratic Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, on July 26, condemning president Trump's tweets stating that he plans to limit the ability of transgender people to serve in the military. (Alex Edelman/Zuma Press/TNS)
  5. Five great solar eclipse moments from movies and TV, from 'Mad Men' to 'The Simpsons'

    Blogs

    As Monday's in-real-life solar eclipse approaches, let's take a look back at some fictional eclipses (or in some cases, fictional depictions of actual solar eclipses) from movies and television.

    Leonard Nimoy had a cameo in "The Simpsons" episode "Marge vs. the Monorail," which also features an eclipse.