Dutch media outlets recently made public Dutch intelligence that officials provided the FBI with evidence of Russian tampering with US elections as early as 2014.
On Friday, a Dutch newspaper called the Volkskrant made public Dutch intelligence gathered by the Netherland’s AVID, the General Intelligence and Security Service, that they had been monitoring a group of Russian hackers that had infiltrated networks used by the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
Dutch intelligence, who have been monitoring cyber criminals for years, discovered a group operating in a university building in Moscow known as Cozy Bear. Not only did Dutch intelligence gain access to the Russian’s computers, but they were able to tap into the building’s cameras as well, catching the hackers in action.
AVID witnessed Cozy Bear breach the White House, the Department of State and the DNC, gaining access to sensitive electronic documents, including 2016 campaign emails that were later published by WikiLeaks.
While there is no evidence available at this time that indicates Russian agents were the source of the WikiLeaks article, this is now indisputable proof that the Russian government did have this information, despite their claims in 2017. The fact that they were eventually published by WikiLeaks is not grounds to void the election, and some would claim that government leaks have served the American people in the past. However, the clear Russia influence behind the leaks has many lawmakers concerned.
According to Nieuwsuur (“News Hour”), a Dutch TV program, Dutch intelligence services alerted their US counterparts about the network breaches of the DNC in the summer of 2015. Over the next few months, they saw the Russian cybercriminals hack several US institutions, including the State Department, the White House, and the DNC. On each occasion, the Dutch alerted the US intelligence services of these breaches.
Over the course of the 2016 elections, there was a continued massive breach into American government networks by Russians. With the current administration under investigation for possible collusion with Russia, what does this mean?
There is no evidence currently available that indicates the Trump campaign was working with Russian agencies at the time of the breaches.
However, there is indication of President Trump’s administration working with Russia.
Since taking office, President Trump has opposed maintaining old sanctions of adding to the existing sanctions against Russia, despite bipartisan support. Assurances from White House officials that sanctions are not necessary notwithstanding, CIA director Mike Pompeo had this to say about Russian interference in the upcoming 2018 midterm elections:
“I have every expectation that they [the Russians] will continue to try and do that, but I am confident that America will be able to have a free and fair election that will push back in a way that is sufficiently robust, that the impact they have on our election won’t be great.”
With all indications that this time Russia will try and interfere with the vote itself, lawmakers expected swift and harsh sanctions to be placed against Russia. Sanctions passed the Senate by a margin of 98-2 and the House of Representatives by an overwhelming 419-3, which put President Trump in a position that would render a veto useless, thereby forcing him to sign it. However, since signing it on August 2, 2017, the Trump administration has yet to enforce it. The deadline was on Monday when State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert announced it would not impose additional sanctions on Russia, insisting that the measures already in place are impacting Russian companies. This statement has lawmakers stumped—how can sanctions that are not even active be working?
In the early hours of Monday morning, the Treasury Department published an unclassified list of oligarchs that includes 114 senior Russian political figures, and 96 businesspeople, which would have been the first step to implementing sanctions against Russia. However, Nauert said on Monday that those named on the list will not immediately face any penalties like asset freezes or visa bans.
This is putting a strain on the Republican Party. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) said that the lack of implantation is “perplexing.”
“That bill passed with only 2 dissenting votes in the Senate. It was not partisan in the least. Bob Corker, Ben Cardin, the leaders of the Foreign Relations Committee, worked very closely together—they came up with a bill that was balanced and needed.”
Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), who took the lead on drafting the sanctions, recently reversed his opinion, claiming to be unconcerned that the administration did not announce sanctions by Monday’s deadline. Despite contrary evidence that the Trump administration has any intention of ever imposing sanctions, he said “This is when sanctions season begins, and so they’ll be rolling them out.”
With the deadline passed, and a White House unwilling to enforce any sanctions passed by Congress, sanctions against Russia for interfering with US sovereignty seem unlikely.
Initial reporting by Reuters