Hacking attacks on a DNC consultant researching pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine lead DNC leaders to conclude the Russian government is behind such attacks.
Alexandra Chalupa, a consultant for the Democratic National Committee (DNC), has been working for several weeks on an opposition research file about Paul Manafort, the campaign manager of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Manafort has a long history of advising politicians around the world, including controversial dictators. Logging into her Yahoo email account, she gets a warning entitled “Important action required” from a Yahoo cybersecurity team. The warning adds, “We strongly suspect that your account has been the target of state-sponsored actors.”
Paul Manafort was a key adviser to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych from 2004 until 2010. Yanukovych is a controversial figure frequently accused of widespread corruption and was overthrown after a massive series of protests in February 2014, and has since been living in Russia, protected by the Russian government. Chalupa had been drafting memos and writing emails about Manafort’s link to pro-Russian Ukrainian leaders such as Yanukovych when she got the warning. She had been in contact with investigative journalists in Ukraine who had been giving her information about Manafort’s ties there.
Chalupa immediately alerts top DNC officials. But more warnings from Yahoo’s security team follows. On May 3, 2016, she writes in an email to DNC communications director Luis Miranda, “Since I started digging into Manafort, these messages have been a daily occurrence on my Yahoo account despite changing my password often.”
In July 2016, she will tell Yahoo News, “I was freaked out,” and “This is really scary.” Her email message to Miranda will later be one of 20,000 emails released by WikiLeaks on July 22, 2016, showing that there was good reason to be concerned about hacking attempts.
Chalupa’s email to Miranda, results in concern amongst top level DNC officials. One unnamed insider will later say. “That’s when we knew it was the Russians,” since Russia would be very interested in Chalupa’s research and other countries like China would not. This source also says that as a precaution, “we told her to stop her research.”
Yahoo will later confirm that it did send numerous warnings to Chalupa, and one Yahoo security official will say, “Rest assured we only send these notifications of suspected attacks by state-sponsored actors when we have a high degree of confidence.” (Yahoo News, 7/25/2016)
April 5, 2016: Huma Abedin gives hints about her multiple email accounts that the FBI fails to properly follow up on.
Huma Abedin, Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, is interviewed by the FBI. During the interview, she discloses she had four email accounts while working at the State Department:
- an official State Department email account.
- an account on Clinton’s clintonemail.com private email server.
- a personal Yahoo account.
- another personal email account that she had previously used to support the political activities of her husband Anthony Weiner.
Abedin says she “routinely” forwarded State Department emails and documents to both her clintonemail.com account and her Yahoo account so she could more easily print them.
She is asked about one classified email sent to her State Department account from an aide to Richard Holbrooke, a special State Department envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan. She had forwarded the email to her Yahoo account in order to print it, but tells the FBI she was “unaware of the classification of the document and stated that she did not make judgments on the classification of material she received. Instead, she relied on the sender to make that assessment and to properly make and transmit the document.”
In October 2016, it will be discovered that copies of at least some of Abedin’s emails wound up on the computer of her husband Weiner, leading FBI Director Comey to at least partially reopen the Clinton email investigation. Yahoo News will later suggest that Abedin’s FBI interview offered hints that “there might be relevant material on her husband’s personal devices. But agents do not appear to have followed up on the clues.” Furthermore, “there is no indication” for the FBI interview summary that the FBI “ever pressed her on what has now turned into an explosive issue in the final days of the 2016 campaign:”
Joseph DiGenova, who Yahoo News will describe as “a former US attorney and independent counsel who has been a strong critic of Comey and the FBI probe,” will call this evidence that the FBI investigation was “not thorough” and was “fatally flawed.” He will add, “The first thing [FBI agents] should have done was gotten a sworn affidavit about all her accounts and devices.” Then they should have immediately attempted to obtain the devices, including Weiner’s.
On June 28, 2016, Abedin will be deposed as part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit by Judicial Watch. Testifying under oath, she will give answers that differ from her FBI interview. When asked about her email accounts, she will claim she rarely used her personal Yahoo account, and when she did she only used it to forward State Department “press clips” so she could print them. (Yahoo News, 10/29/2016)