Four senior NRCC aides surveilled, top GOP leaders kept in dark over major 2018 election hack

The emails of top National Republican Congressional Committee officials were reportedly hacked during the 2018 election.

But according to a new report by Politico, several senior House Republicans did not even know about the breach until the news outlet contacted them Monday about it.

According to unnamed senior party officials, four NRCC aides had their emails surveilled for several months before a security services provider for the NRCC alerted the committee about the hack back in April. Officials then informed CrowdStrike, the same cybersecurity firm that helped Democrats with their computer systems in 2016.

Though the FBI was alerted about the NRCC hack and an internal investigation was launched, top GOP lawmakers were in the dark about the incident.

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana allegedly knew nothing of the intrusion until Politico reached out for comment on Monday.

The chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Ohio’s Rep. Steve Stivers, reportedly did not return Politico’s requests for comment.

But NRCC officials indicated that the matter was kept under wraps so as to not compromise their own internal investigation.

‘”We don’t want to get into details about what was taken because it’s an ongoing investigation,” a senior party official said. “Let’s say they had access to four active accounts. I think you can draw from that.”

According to Politico:

The hack became a major source of consternation within the committee as the midterm election unfolded. The NRCC brought on the prominent Washington law firm Covington and Burling as well as Mercury Public Affairs to oversee the response to the hack. The NRCC paid the two firms hundreds of thousands of dollars to help respond to the intrusion. The committee’s chief legal counsel, Chris Winkelman, devoted hours of his time to dealing with matter.

Party officials would not say when the hack began or who was behind it, although they privately believe it was a foreign agent due to the nature of the attack.

Donor information was not compromised during the intrusion, the party officials said.

 

“The NRCC can confirm that it was the victim of a cyber intrusion by an unknown entity,” Mercury vice president Ian Prior said. The cybersecurity of the Committee’s data is paramount, and upon learning of the intrusion, the NRCC immediately launched an internal investigation and notified the FBI, which is now investigating the matter.”

“To protect the integrity of that investigation, the NRCC will offer no further comment on the incident,” he added.

Although the breach potentially exposed thousands of emails from the aides’ accounts, none have appeared in any public forum or been used to threaten officials, party officials said.

Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer is set to take the reins at the NRCC this term and was briefed on the incident on Monday.

Former Hillary Clinton campaign manager, Robby Mook, tweeted that any documents should not be “amplified” by the media or others if “criminals” release them.

“That was the right thing in 2016 and it’s the right thing today,” referring to the infamous 2016 hacking of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s emails. At the time, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio had warned the GOP to refrain from using any material for political gain.

Naturally, critics of President Donald Trump are quick to recall the how he mocked his opponents at the time and noted that Republicans were better at cyber security.

A dozen Russian intelligence operatives were indicted in July for hacking Democrats’ emails.

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Frieda Powers

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