Published on June 20th, 2019 📆 | 3127 Views ⚑0
Prosecutors rebut Roger Stone: U.S. caught Russian election hackers on its own
Government investigators independently verified that Russian operatives hacked the Democratic National Committee in 2016 and did not rely on a private cyber firm’s findings, federal prosecutors in the Roger Stone case in a court filing on Thursday.
The prosecutors were rebutting a claim made in a prior court filing by Stone — a longtime Trump adviser who is fighting charges of making false statements to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering — that the government relied only on “an inconclusive and unsubstantiated report” written by cyber research firm CrowdStrike and did not “collect any evidence of the DNC breach directly.”
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The DNC initially hired CrowdStrike to investigate the breach in 2016 and promoted the firm’s findings when it blamed the Kremlin for the hack. Stone and others have since argued that the government has not shown it could independently prove Russia’s guilt, and Stone now wants the unredacted CrowdStrike reports written for the DNC.
But prosecutors in the Washington, D.C., office of U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu, who assumed oversight of the case after special counsel Robert Mueller began winding down his work, called Stone’s assertions “incorrect.”
While the prosecutors did not go into detail, they noted that the investigators gathered evidence of the Russians’ involvement independently, which led to the indictment last year of 12 Russian military officials in connection with the DNC hack. The FBI knew as early as September 2015 — seven months before the DNC hired CrowdStrike — that a cyber group linked to Russia had breached the DNC, according to a New York Times report, and reportedly tried to warn the committee of the hack.
Mueller’s indictment of the Russian digital spies, which charged the defendants with hacking into the computers and email systems of the DNC, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta, included forensic evidence and recorded specific actions — down to searches run and files deleted — as well as the hackers’ internal communications with U.S. persons.
Roger Stone was one of the Americans in touch with the Russian operatives, though he has maintained he did not know the online persona he communicated with, Guccifer 2.0, was a fictional persona created by the Russians to disseminate the stolen files.
The government said it has not provided the underlying evidence gathered in hacking case to Stone in the discovery process because it is irrelevant to his case. Prosecutors argued that the probable cause determinations for the 18 search warrants executed on his home earlier this year had to do with Stone’s communications with Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks, which released the hacked DNC materials.
“Stone’s statement that the government has no other evidence is not only irrelevant to this proceeding but is also mistaken,” they wrote. “The government accordingly wishes to correct any misimpression.”
Thursday’s filing is the second time in less than a month that prosecutors have directly refuted Stone’s out-of-the-mainstream argument that Russia may not have been responsible for the DNC hack, a theory that Trump has floated publicly in the past.
In May, Stone submitted affidavits from two former intelligence officials who agreed that Russia was an unlikely source for the files, citing metadata, time stamps and even time zone data as evidence that the removal of DNC files may have originated in the United States. Stone argued that if the evidence Russia was behind the hacks was faulty, so were the search warrants used to ultimately indict him.
The government immediately shot that down.
“Even if those claims were correct and well supported (which they are not), they would not come close to suggesting that any statements about Russia conducting the hacks were false,” they wrote.
Kyle Cheney contributed to this report.