For months, both Congress and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have been scrutinizing evidence that associates of President Donald Trump may have colluded with agents of the Kremlin to sabotage the 2016 elections. Now, the Wall Street Journal appears to have dug up the first confirmed instance of collusion between a Russian hacker and a Republican strategist.
The Journal reported on Thursday that “Guccifer 2.0” — a pseudonymous hacker that, according to the Department of Homeland Security and Director of National Intelligence, is a front for Russian intelligence — provided a Florida political consultant with documents swiped from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. That consultant, Aaron Nevins, dutifully posted some of the documents on a local political blog called HelloFLA.com.
Guccifer 2.0 denies any connection to Moscow, and Nevins told the Journal he didn’t think he had participated in a Russian sabotage claim. But he also clearly indicated a greater interest in the political intelligence he received — and the potential harm it could do to Democrats — than in its source.
“If your interests align, never shut any door in politics,” Nevins told the Journal.
While Nevins denies that Guccifer is a Russian agent, he is forthright about his collaboration with the hacker or group of hackers. Which means that the Journal has found a bona fide, incontrovertible example of collusion.
A calculated decision to not shut any doors also seems to be how Carter Page, a central figure in the Russia investigation, ended up as an adviser on Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, according to a Post story that also came out on Thursday. The FBI became aware as early as 2013 that Moscow was trying to turn Page into an intelligence asset; three years later, Trump’s people reportedly welcomed Page onto the campaign after an extremely cursory background check, because they were hard up for credible-seeming national security advisers.
The stories about both Page and Nevins dropped less than 24 hours after the New York Times revealed that American intelligence agencies had intercepted communications between Russian spies about how they could use Trump’s close associates to influence him. Page — who never met Trump, according to both parties — does not receive a mention in the article. But the Times reports that the Russians “appeared confident” that campaign adviser Michael Flynn and campaign chairman Paul Manafort “could be used to help shape Mr. Trump’s opinions on Russia.”
Manafort resigned from the campaign before its completion, under a cloud of scrutiny related to his links with Moscow-friendly forces in Ukraine. Flynn went on to become Trump’s National Security Adviser, only to be forced out weeks later after it emerged that he had lied about private discussions with a Russian diplomat.