Diary

The DNC "Hack," Part 3: What Was Pilfered

FILE - In this Oct. 5, 2016 file photo, Hillary Clinton's campaign manager John Podesta speaks to members of the media outside Clinton's home in Washington. New evidence appears to show how hackers earlier this year stole more than 50,000 emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, an audacious electronic attack blamed on Russia’s government and one has resulted in embarrassing political disclosures about Democrats in the final weeks before the U.S. presidential election. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

In part 1, I looked at the origin of the alleged hack while in part 2 I looked at some of the actions of CrowdStrike, the firm hired by the DNC to deal with it.  Next, we look at what was pilfered and the Podesta “hack.”

Originally, the DNC claimed that no information was taken regarding the many supporters and donors of the DNC.  However, one set of documents turned over to some journalists revealed the names, cell phone numbers and email addresses of many high-profile donors to the DNC.  Other documents revealed donor histories and personal information and while some of the information is readily available publicly through FEC filings, the data included in the leaks is more detailed.  One of the major documents stolen was the opposition research on Trump which was basically open source rehashing of Trump’s business deals, personal life, and political views.  

The timing of the release of the DNC emails on the eve of the party’s convention in July 2016 cannot be overlooked.  They led to the resignation of Wasserman-Schultz and seemed to confirm what Sanders had claimed since December 2015 and what Trump was saying on the campaign trail about the Democrat Party’s nomination process.  So, what was revealed?

  • One email discussed how staffers can leverage the faith of Bernie Sanders to weaken him in the eyes of Southern voters;
  • Another depicts how Hillary Clinton can defend against accusations by Sanders that she was reneging on a promise of a joint fundraising effort previously agreed upon;
  • emails dealt with staffer strategies for dealing with troublesome media requests and coordinating their message with DC politicians;
  • Another email detailed the rough relationship history between Sanders and party leadership.  Staffers questioned how they could get Sanders to answer questions about his belief in God so that it would make a difference to voters in Kentucky and West Virginia.  Brad Marshall, the DNC’s chief financial officer wrote: “This could make several points difference with my peeps. My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist;”
  • Wasserman-Schultz referred to Jeff Weaver, the campaign manager for Sanders, as a “damn liar” and an “ass” over his complaints that Clinton had subverted party rules in the Nevada caucuses;
  • White House officials had expressed concern over Obama appearing with some convention attendees given their shady pasts;
  • Some of the most damaging information referred to Wasserman-Schultz who dismissed Sanders after an appearance he made on CNN.  Others detailed apparent disarray in the Sanders campaign;
  • When polls indicated that Sanders was leading in Rhode Island, governor Gina Raimondo planned to reduce the number of polling locations to suppress voter turnout, and;
  • After Sanders surprisingly won the Indiana primary by five points, staffers said it proved nothing other than the fact that Sanders was “obnoxious.”

  We know that Hillary Clinton emerged victorious as the candidate to take on Trump in the November general election.  Looked at objectively, nothing released through the Guccifer 2.0 blog or WikiLeaks was particularly groundbreaking.  Much of the data released was largely available to both parties.  For example, many pilfered files examined spending by Congressional campaigns in both parties, regional demographics, voting histories, and strategies for capturing the vote of certain demographics, nuances in voting procedures among different states, and the cost of political advertising.  No confidential strategies were divulged, just calculated targets and goals.  

What was most damaging were the series of emails between DNC leaders that show the party leadership, which is supposed to be neutral in the nominating process, took sides and worked to slant things in Clinton’s favor.  The emails proved that what Bernie Sanders was saying through his staff and what Trump was echoing on the campaign trail was true: the Party was in the bag for Clinton.  

Later in the year Guccifer 2.0 again took credit for the hacking and release of confidential emails of Clinton campaign operative John Podesta.  Unlike the DNC episode, there is ample evidence that Podesta’s gmail account was hacked by unknown entities through a spear-phishing scam.  The phishing attack was a common one used by hackers.  Considering that the DNC breach was, if we accept the Russian attribution line of thinking, complex, or if we accept the theory it was an inside job, the Podesta breach is considerably less complex and less sinister.  

Podesta received a spear phishing email asking for his gmail credentials because “they” had evidence his gmail account was already hacked.  This is common among hackers to obtain information.  

There was a rumor that Podesta used the password “password” for the account.  That has been debunked (it was “runner4567”).  Like the DNC breach, this was also blamed on Russia as either a direct attack by their intelligence services, or by Guccifer 2.0 who by this time had been characterized as an online persona created by Russian intelligence.  The evidence is purely circumstantial.  But phishing attacks are low-tech attempts and can be perpetrated, literally as Julian Assange stated, by a “14-year-old in the basement.”

In Podesta’s case, he received an email in March 2016 allegedly from Google stating that his gmail credentials had been compromised.  An aide emailed Clinton’s IT staff to determine if the email was legitimate.  They emailed back that it was and that Podesta should change his password immediately.  He later said his email contained a typo and that he meant to say the Google email was “illegitimate.”  

The Podesta email leaks dominated the news cycle towards the end of the presidential campaign in 2016.  Unlike the DNC and DCCC leaks, these were more troubling and painted a picture of candidate Hillary Clinton and her husband.  Doug Band described in detail how his firm worked to raise money for the Clinton Foundation and Bill Clinton personally.  He often rallied clients of his firm, Teneo, to donate to Clinton’s initiative and provide “in kind” services for Clinton and his family.  Band referred to the enterprise in the email as “Bill Clinton, Inc.”  In another email, Podesta had contacted Neera Tanden, a close Hillary adviser.  Fearing that Biden might enter the fray, he complained to Tanden about Hillary’s “bad instincts.”  

The two shared concerns about other Hillary aides, particularly Cheryl Mills, David Kendall (Clinton’s private lawyer), and Phillipe Reines.  Obama had told reporters that he learned of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server while she was Secretary of State when the news media reported it.  But, emails between Mills and Podesta prove otherwise.  In particular, Mills notes that Obama has emails from Clinton without the “state.gov” address.  

In a December 2015 email between Clinton and Podesta, he referred to Bernie Sanders as a “doofus.” Podesta had drafted a memo suggesting 40 possible vice-presidential picks for Clinton that he arranged into “food groups.”  On that list was Bill or Melinad Gates of Microsoft fame, Peter Cook of Apple, and Howard Schultz of Starbucks.  Long before she announced her candidacy, the campaign was trying to convince officials in Illinois to change the date of their primary so that Clinton would receive a bounce coming out of Super Tuesday.  The November 2014 email chain between Robbie Mook, her future campaign manager, and Podesta noted that it was unlikely since Democrats in Illinois felt left out by Obama and would not change the date out of spite.

  Donna Brazile, a paid contributor to CNN, had fed Hillary a question that she would be asked in a March town hall format forum.  She also emailed the Clinton campaign of a Sanders strategy to court the black vote.  The campaign fretted about Clinton’s position on the then-controversial Keystone XL pipeline.  Mook had noted that a large donor to the campaign was also a financial backer of the pipeline’s construction.  They contemplated waiting until after Obama vetoed the pipeline in November 2015 before making a decision.  

There was one title of an email that some seized upon: “Needy Latinos need 1 easy call.”  This was in reference to Podesta and Abedin suggesting that Clinton should reach out to Bill Richardson and former Energy Secretary Federico Pena to garner their primary support in order to court the Spanish vote.  Podesta referred to Richardson by a profane name.  And what email chain revelation would be complete without some family drama?  Doug Band had complained to Podesta that Chelsea Clinton was interfering in the work of his consulting firm.  Claiming that Chelsea had “not found her way” and had “no focus in life,” he said she was acting like a “spoiled brat.”  

When looked at in the aggregate, we can easily determine that everything published by WikiLeaks (or Guccifer 2.0) was 100% accurate.  They were never denied by anyone mentioned.  Instead of denial or explanation, they engaged in a systematic and coordinated effort of deflection of attribution onto the Russians.  One would have to question what Putin and the Russians had to gain from engaging in this?  

To Putin, the Democrats and Hillary Clinton- who he hates- were running around like clowns.  Importantly, we learned from the Podesta emails that stories about Hillary Clinton in the works by such outlets as CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times, and Washington Post were often cleared first by the Clinton campaign before being published.

Next: Proof it could have been an inside job and why Russia was blamed