The Donald Trump 2016 presidential campaign may have used data stolen by Russian hackers to make strategic and sudden changes to its television advertising plan in the final weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign, a possibility raised by details in Friday’s indictment of 12 Russian military intelligence agents suggests.
When Russia investigation Special Counsel Robert Mueller handed down the 29-page indictment — charging the dozen Russians with “Conspiracy to Commit an Offense Against the United States” in connection with the cyber-attack on the 2016 elections, as the Department of Justice outlined in a press release — the details spelled out in the document contained numerous revelations. But two, in particular, stood out.
As The Inquisitr reported, the document showed that just a few hours after Trump, on July 27 of 2016, publicly called for Russia to hack Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s email servers, the Russian intelligence agents attempted to do exactly that.
But in a second revelation that journalist and Russia scandal expert Marcy Wheeler called “by far the most alarming and potentially important detail” in the indictment, Mueller revealed for the first time that the Russian cyber-spies stole more than internal emails. The hackers also stole important campaign analytics, the type of data used to target voters and decide where to place advertising and send the candidate on campaign stops.
“I have been saying forever that the easiest way to steal the election would be to steal Hillary’s analytics,” Wheeler wrote on the Empty Wheel site. “The indictment is silent about what happened to this stolen analytics data.”
But another Twitter activist noticed a strange concurrence of events that indicated what may have happened to the data. It was right around that time or shortly later, New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman noted, that the Trump campaign suddenly canceled “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in TV advertising in key battleground states including Florida, Ohio and North Carolina.
The hack of Democratic campaign analytics came just a few weeks earlier, according to the indictments, which refers to the Russian cyber-spies as “the Conspirators.”
“In or around September 2016, the Conspirators also successfully gained access to DNC computers hosted on a third-party cloud-computing service,” the indictment reads. “These computers contained test applications related to the DNC’s analytics. After conducting reconnaissance, the Conspirators gathered data by creating backups, or ‘snapshots,’ of the DNC’s cloud-based systems using the cloud provider’s own technology.”
As Trump’s own senior communications adviser, Jason Miller, said on October 7, 2016, “our data-driven campaign is shifting resources from over-performing markets to new battlegrounds (within) the battlegrounds. Buy is growing.”
As the Twitter activist “Julie” pointed out, it was also on October 7 — just a month before the election — that the Trump campaign announced it would place advertising in Wisconsin for the first time in the campaign, as Bloomberg News reported at that time.
Trump went on to win Wisconsin, becoming the first Republican to do so since Ronald Reagan in 1984, a victory that proved to be a “tipping point” in the election, according to FiveThirtyEight.com Editor Nate Silver. In fact, the sudden change of strategy coming shortly after the Russian theft of Clinton’s campaign analytics was part of what Silver called Trump’s “better tipping-point strategy than Clinton.”
Whether the stolen data was, in fact, what motivated the sudden change in the Trump campaign strategy is not addressed in the indictment. But something else happened on October 7 to suggest that the Russian intelligence agents were paying close attention to the events of the campaign.
That was the day that the instantly-infamous Access Hollywood tape became public, on which Trump is heard making numerous crude and offensive comments about women, including bragging about his ability to sexually assault women because “when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything,” according to a transcript published by The New York Times.
But as independent journalist Scott Stedman noted on Saturday, it took the Russian intelligence agents only 27 minutes after the initial release of the offensive Trump tape to begin releasing internal emails stolen from John Podesta, the chair of Clinton’s campaign. The Russians had possessed the emails since March when, Politico reported, they first infiltrated the email server used by Podesta.