Donald Trump’s alleged request that Ukraine investigate Democratic 2020 front-runner Joe Biden over his son’s link to a Ukrainian energy firm is at the heart of the impeachment case against him. But a few weeks after Trump made that purported request, Russian hackers working for the country’s military intelligence agency reportedly began a cyberattack against the same Ukrainian natural gas company, Burisma Holdings. The findings regarding the Russian hack were published this week in a report by the cybersecurity firm Area 1.
If accurate, the Area 1 findings would appear to be an eerie echo of an incident in 2016, when Russian hackers from the same agency, Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), reportedly attempted for the first time to hack a private email server used by then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. That hacking attempt on July 27, 2016, occurred just hours after Trump supposedly invited Russians to hack Clinton’s server.
“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” he reportedly said during a press conference.
Trump told Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, in a July 25 phone call that he wanted the Ukrainian government to investigate Biden, whose son Hunter Biden previously sat on the board of Burisma Holdings.
On October 3, nine days after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump’s alleged pressure on Ukraine to investigate Biden, Trump reportedly went public with his call for Ukraine to stage a “major investigation” of the former United States vice president — who is the likely front-runner for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
About one month later, in early November, GRU spies launched a cyber “phishing” campaign against Burisma, according to a Washington Post summary of the Area 1 report.
“Phishing” is a form of cyberattack in which hackers send deceptive emails designed to trick the victims into unwittingly handing over their login credentials to email accounts and other private online services. The phishing technique was also used by GRU hackers to attack the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign in 2016, according to findings by special counsel Robert Mueller and other investigators, as the Post report recounted.
Florida House Rep. Val Demings — a former police chief of Orlando, Florida — noted the parallels between the 2016 and 2019 Russia hacks on her Twitter account.
Posted on Tuesday morning, Demings’ tweet said, “1: Trump asks Russia to investigate 2016 rival. 2: Russian spies attack the 2016 election. 3: Trump asks Ukraine (and others) to investigate a 2020 rival.”
As No. 4, Demings linked to The Washington Post report on the Area 1 findings, headlined, “Russian spies hacked Ukrainian gas company at heart of Trump impeachment trial.”