This week, a major news outlet was hacked after publishing a story on the latest alleged Donald Trump violation, according to tweets posted by Kurt Eichenwald, the author of the Newsweek story that alleges Donald Trump broke a Cuba embargo in the 1990’s. Also, the House Judiciary Committee questioned the FBI about all of the hacking regarding an “October surprise” promised by the Trump camp according to Media Matters.
All of this happened in the same week, actually, within 24 hours.
This might be the first Presidential election where hacking plays a role, that we know of. But the subject of hacking has been part of Elections 2016 since the Summer, when the DNC was hacked, and a number of illegally obtained documents regarding the Democratic Party were leaked online. Additionally, in another odd, but not unrelated event, the word “Russia” has come up a lot in this election.
The word Russia comes up a lot with all of this. Nobody was thinking, much, of Russia and connections to this election until this summer and convention season began.
It was, actually, Donald Trump that brought Russia up first. Right around the time that Hillary Clinton’s convention that secured her Presidential nomination began creating an uprising of support in the public, he did something very strange.
Donald Trump asked Russia for help in finding Hillary Clinton’s lost emails. Then, almost immediately after, in the same week, the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign was hacked. By Russia.
It all happened through an Internet portal known as Wiki Leaks. It was discovered the founder of Wiki Leaks is a person named Julian Assange. Then, as if that leak was not bad enough, an “October surprise” by the hacker and leaker was promised that would help Donald Trump’s campaign, and would occur this month, right before Americans started going to the polls to choose their next President.
Nobody knows what the October surprise is, but we do have reason to believe the FBI is trying to find out.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is at the center of the Donald Trump Russia DNC… https://t.co/mOgtNKoLq4— Diane Davis (@junco13) September 5, 2016
So the DNC gets hacked, conventions finish, and the general election campaign continues. At an alarming rate, almost daily, more and more information comes out of Donald Trump violating one federal regulation or law after another, and also, of his connections to Russia and overseas oligarchs.
We’ve covered a few from the tireless journalists that have been pulling these details out of the mud. There was David Fahrentold’s work in the Washington Post about all of the strange things happening at the Trump Foundation. There was Eichenwald’s story in Newsweek that Trump broke Cuban embargo once.
There was also the New York Times bombshell that broke on August 14 alleging a secret ledger in the Ukraine was connected to former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, alleging some money had changed hands. Not just some, $12 million. The New York Times story came out on August 14. Then, Paul Manafort was benched. Then he quit by August 19.
But Manafort denies that happened.
The word Russia came out a lot then too. We’ve also reported this week on Trump’s racketeering and fraud lawsuits that are currently open cases, that one law professor says, are impeachable offenses.
This makes Donald Trump the only Presidential candidate to head into an election, and potentially even the Oval Office, with open racketeering and fraud cases.
This week, it was the Cuban embargo story by Newsweek that made jaws drop. Donald Trump promptly denied that. Then, Newsweek got hacked. By Russia.
The original Newsweek story by Kurt Eichenwald alleged that a company “secretly conducted business in Communist Cuba despite strict America trade bans that made such undertakings illegal.”
During this Cuban embargo in the 1990’s, money could not be spent in Cuba without approval. Money for or used by charities in Cuba was permitted, but government approval by the OFAC, the Office of Foreign Assets Control, was mandatory.
Newsweek interviewed former Trump employees, and provided documentation that backed up those claims. The documentation also shows that the companies Trump was dealing with, discussed hiding the expenses as charitable ones, in a charity known as “Carinas Cuba.”
Eichenwald also tweeted the documentation to Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s former campaign manager, after Lewandowski went on CNN and said there was no proof of the Cuba embargo violations.
Trump Hotels, the Seven Arrows, the consulting firm behind all of it, clearly knew that the federal approval was necessary, as they spoke about the requirement of a White House sanction in that documentation. As Newsweek notes, it’s not an actual White House sanction, just approval by the OFAC, a branch of the executive branch known as the Office of Foreign Assets Control.
At first, the Trump campaign and organization did not respond to Eichenwald’s request for comment. Then, the day after, when they realized how big a deal people thought this was, they commented, denying everything.
Newsweek reports that Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, went on The View the next day to talk about it. She did say that “they paid money” in Cuba but denied the allegations. The allegations are that, “they paid money” in Cuba, and it was illegal to do so.
Eichenwald’s report says that a former Trump employee admitted the proper sanctions and approval was not obtained prior to the trip. Internal documents also revealed that executives involved in the project “were still discussing the need for federal approval” after the trip had occurred.
This story had everybody talking, and led to Trump Hotels trending on Facebook. Politicians such as Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio spoke out, saying that, this was deeply concerning if true. And then, Newsweek got hacked. That’s not what it looked like at first though.
By the evening of the night the story broke, Newsweek posted on their Facebook page, an indication of some technical difficulty. Kurt Eichenwald’s story broke the Internet. Literally. Newsweek said the story led to “overwhelming readership” and that Newsweek was “temporarily down.”
Then, a series of tweets by Eichenwald occurred. He said, Newsweek was hacked. But, worse, that “lots of IP addresses involved” and that “main ones are Russian.” He then thanked other outlets for reposting the story “when hackers blocked access 2 it on Newsweek.” He also thanked the hackers for giving the story more attention.
News: The reason ppl couldnt read #TrumpInCuba piece late yesterday is that hackers launched a major attack on Newsweek after it was posted.— Kurt Eichenwald (@kurteichenwald) September 30, 2016
As 4 the hackers who took down Newsweek after we posted "Trump in Cuba" piece: Thanks for giving it more publicity. https://t.co/BLWD7ga1BZ— Kurt Eichenwald (@kurteichenwald) September 30, 2016
Update on hacker attack on @Newsweek aftr story posted on Trump breaking Cuba embargo. Lots of IP addresses involved; main ones are Russian.— Kurt Eichenwald (@kurteichenwald) September 30, 2016
GOP Congress spends a year and a half investigating Clinton emails, but refuses to investigate whether Russia is hacking our election? WTF?— Kurt Eichenwald (@kurteichenwald) September 30, 2016
Eichenwald has also expressed concerns that none of this Russian hacking is being investigated by the GOP Congress.
Russians hacking Clinton campaign, State Dept, Newsweek, taking down stories, leaking emails. GOP says no inquiry. https://t.co/HLxEWF35tS— Kurt Eichenwald (@kurteichenwald) September 30, 2016
Meanwhile, in an odd but not unrelated hacking note, the world awaits with baited breath to see if there really is an “October surprise” coming out of the Trump camp that is going to rock the Hillary Clinton campaign. It is said to be another hacking scandal, and was announced on August 8 of this year, by Julian Assange, founder of Wiki Leaks.
Megyn Kelly for Fox News spoke with Assange about this. The interview was conducted with Assange at an “undisclosed location” because he is wanted for extradition by Sweden, and is currently being investigated by the United States government for “his role in the largest leak of classified documents in U.S. history.” Watch that interview with Julian Assange here.
On August 9, Roger Stone then made a startling claim. Roger Stone is a self-described “political operative and pundit” according to his website. He’s a “veteran of nine national presidential campaigns” and a “senior campaign aide to three Republican presidents.”
He describes himself as a libertarian, and once worked on the Trump campaign until he had a falling out with Trump earlier this year and resigned. Stone told the Financial Times in August why he resigned.
“It was clear to me that Trump had his own vision of how to be nominated. It was not a vision I shared. He never took a single poll, he was shooting from his gut the entire time – no analytics, no targeting, no paid media of any kind. He decided to bet the ranch on a communications strategy that consisted of doing as many interviews as you could jam in one day, then framing his rallies as media events that enticed the cable channels to cover them in a kind of commercial worth millions of dollars that we don’t have to pay.”
Roger Stone told the Financial Times that instead of buying ads, Trump went controversial in interviews to get free press. He didn’t agree with that strategy, and also had multiple problems with Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, and then Stone resigned.
But the Donald Trump connection for Roger Stone did not end there.
Stone has been described as an ongoing wing man and confidante to Donald Trump, by the House Judiciary Commitee since he resigned. Then, on August 9, he spoke to the Southwest Broward Republican Organization and made a startling claim.
Stone was asked if he knew what the October surprise was going to be. He said, it “could be any number of things” but hinted towards the Clinton Foundation. He also said, “I actually have communicated with Julian Assange” in a Roger Stone video posted on Media Matters.
That Trump’s former campaign staffer would admit publicly that he had spoken with the founder of Wiki Leaks raised concerns, primarily with the House Judiciary Committee, and possibly the FBI. This week, on September 28, Media Matters reported that FBI Director James Comey was questioned by the House Judiciary Committee on the topic.
Democratic Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York asked Comey if Comey was familiar with a letter “from ranking members of a number of House committees” that asked whether or not the FBI was investigating “troubling connections between Trump campaign officials and Russian interests.”
James Comey responded, yes, he was aware of the letter. Then, Rep. Nadler says, “Roger Stone, a Donald Trump confidant, revealed that he has communicated with Wiki Leaks founder Julian Assange about the upcoming release of additional illegally hacked Democratic documents.” Nadler then said the following.
“Obviously if someone is stating publicly that he is in direct communication with the organization that obtained these illegally hacked comments, I assume the FBI would want to talk to that person.”
And that is when FBI Director James Comey clammed up. He told the House Judiciary Committee that he couldn’t comment on that, and when pressed if that was because there was an open investigation, Comey could not comment on that either. Watch the video here, where Nadler even tries to get Comey to explain why he would or would not comment, and what the implications of not commenting were.
The October surprise remains to be seen, although if Roger Stone is correct, the next round of Wiki Leaks, if it occurs, could pertain to the Clinton Foundation. This suggests that Roger Stone has information that the Clinton Foundation has also been hacked.
Interestingly enough, after Newsweek was hacked, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski went on CNN in an effort to back up Donald Trump on the Cuba story. Newsweek reported that too, saying that the Trump camp “knew for days” that the story was coming out, and that, “Trump still won’t tell the truth” on the Cuba mission.
Corey Lewandowski then went on CNN to say, “There’s absolutely no facts whatsoever that this took place.” Then, Kurt Eichenwald of Newsweek began tweeting multiple documents to show that, indeed there were facts to indicate this definitely took place.
Eichenwald is also tweeting about “shocking level of dishonesty and incompetence” in the Trump campaign. He is also calling out the GOP for blocking the “investigation of Russia hacking into the election.” Yesterday he tweeted,
Now is entire GOP going pro-Putin? With FBI concluding Russians are hacking gov & electoral stuff, why does Congress refuse to investigate?— Kurt Eichenwald (@kurteichenwald) September 30, 2016
Whether the Newsweek hack and the DNC hack will be investigated remains to be seen. However, that the FBI Director is being questioned about that, and a possible October surprise, by the House Judiciary Committee is an indicator that the problem definitely has not been forgotten.
[Feature Image by John Locher/AP Images]