On Friday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the latest indictment in special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Twelve Russian military intelligence officials were charged with hacking into the servers of the Democratic National Committee, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and several members of Hillary Clinton’s campaign staff. But buried within the indictment is another explosive charge: an unnamed congressional candidate explicitly reached out to the Russian hackers seeking damaging information about his or her political opponent.
“The Conspirators, posing as Guccifer 2.0, received a request for stolen documents from a candidate for the U.S. Congress,” reads the indictment. “The Conspirators responded using the Guccifer 2.0 persona and sent the candidate stolen documents related to the candidate’s opponent.”
The request was made on August 15, 2016, less than three months before election day and less than three weeks after Donald Trump publicly asked Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails.
The indictment does not name the candidate in question, nor does it reveal any other identifying information. It’s unclear if the candidate was an incumbent — and therefore a sitting member of Congress at the time — or whether the candidate won his or her election. But the indictment does say that the conspirators — posing as a lone Romanian hacker calling himself Guccifer 2.0 — provided the candidate with materials as requested.
The indictment details how the stolen information was relayed to unnamed American individuals, including one attached to the Trump campaign, primarily through a website called DCLeaks and an unnamed third party referred to in the indictment as Organization 1 but widely believed to be WikiLeaks.
The revelation that congressional candidates actively turned to Russian intelligence agents in order to interfere with a federal election might speak to why congressional Republicans have been so eager to portray the special counsel’s probe as a witch hunt. Several top House Republicans have sought to undermine Mueller’s investigation. They have called for the impeachment of Deputy AG Rosenstein and called into question the legitimacy of the entire United States intelligence community. Just yesterday, during an hours-long hearing before the joint House Judiciary and Oversight Committees, Republicans tried to delegitimize the FBI’s investigation by questioning the marital fidelity of one of its agents.