The Mueller Report

I’m sure you are all aware that a substantial portion of the Mueller Report regarding Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election was released. I’m sure you have read all or some of the publicly-released material and are aware of the the main points in the report and the attempt of Donald Trump and his cronies to mis-characterize the report as an exoneration of Trump’s conduct during the campaign. The usual news sources are full of discussions of the contents of the report and the likelihood of Trump’s impeachment for obstruction of justice and violating his oath of office, so I will not discuss that topic. I do want to highlight a point that has not received much media attention.

In part 1 of the Report (dealing with the Russian contacts with the Trump campaign, social media attacks, and related cyber attacks), Mueller makes the following interesting points:

“Military Unit 74455 is a related GRU unit with multiple departments engaged in cyber operations. … Officers from Unit 74455 separately hacked computers belonging to state boards of elections, secretaries of states, and U.S. companies that supplied software and other technology related to the administration of U.S. elections.” (Mueller Report, pg. 37)

“In addition to targeting individuals involved in the Clinton Campaign, GRU officers also targeted individuals and entities involved in the administration of the elections. Victims included U.S., state and local entities, such as state boards of elections (SBOEs), secretaries of state, and county governments, as well as individuals who worked for those entities. The GRU also targeted private technology firms responsible for manufacturing and administrating election-related software and hardware, such as voter registration and electronic polling stations. The GRU continued to target these victims through the elections in November 2016. While the investigation identified evidence that the GRU targeted these individuals and entities, the Office did not investigate further. …

“By at least the summer of 2016, GRU officers sought access to state and local computer networks by exploiting known software vulnerabilities on the websites of state and local government entities. … In one instance in approximately June 2016, the GRU compromised the computer network of the Illinois State Board of Elections by exploiting a vulnerability in the SBOE’s website. The GRU then gained access to a database containing information on millions of registered Illinois voters, and extracted data related to thousands of U.S. voters before the malicious activity was identified.

“GRU officers … scanned state and local websites for vulnerabilities. For example, over a two day period in July 2016, GRU officers … [scanned] for vulnerabilities on websites of more than two dozen states. … Unit 74455 also sent spearfishing emails to public officials involved in election administration and personnel at companies involved in voting technology. … The spearfishing emails contained an attached Word document coded with malicious software (commonly referred to as a Trojan) that permitted the GRU to access the infected computer. … [This] enabled the GRU to gain access to the network of at least one Florida county government. …” (Mueller Report, pp. 50-51)

So there we have it. The Report presents evidence that the Russians engaged in a disinformation campaign in social media, and tilted the election by hacking into the DCCC and the Clinton campaign’s servers and then releasing confidential data on the Internet. But there is more: the Russians hacked into election databases in at least two states as shown in the report. Did they change voter registration data? Did they change vote totals? We do not know. And it is very strange that the investigation stopped at this point. Was Mueller told by Rod Rosenstein to limit the investigation on this point? We don’t know this either. What we have is a lot of information to suggest that voting results were tampered with, but no hard proof.

Finally, we have the weird statement of Donald Trump on this topic. In a White House driveway interview yesterday (May 30, 2019), Trump was asked on camera if any steps are being taken to prevent Russian interference in the 2020 election. He responded that paper ballots should be used to insure an accurate vote total. It is fascinating that this was the only topic mentioned, with no mention of social media disinformation or the theft of campaign confidential data. Does Trump know that the real election interference involved tampering with the vote count? Did the Russians actually install Trump as president by changing vote totals? And what if this happened: would the intelligence and law enforcement agencies in the U.S. tell the world that the 2016 U.S. Presidential was corrupt and illegitimate, and Trump was installed as president by the criminal action of Russian cyber criminals?

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