A Paul Ryan Super PAC Used Russian-Hacked Emails

Eric Lipton and Scott Shane report that Russian hacks went beyond an attempt to discredit Hillary Clinton’s campaign. They also hacked into the DCCC and sought to influence the outcome of House races.

The intrusions in House races in states including Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Ohio, Illinois, New Mexico and North Carolina can be traced to tens of thousands of pages of documents taken from the D.C.C.C., which shares a Capitol Hill office building with the Democratic National Committee.

The document dump’s effectiveness was due in part to a de facto alliance that formed between the Russian hackers and political bloggers and newspapers across the United States. The hackers, working under the made-up name of Guccifer 2.0, used social media tools to invite individual reporters to request specific caches of documents, handing them out the way political operatives distribute scoops. It was an arrangement that proved irresistible to many news outlets — and amplified the consequences of the cyberattack.

The document dump from these hacks wasn’t limited to competitive House races. It included confidential information about Representative Ben Ray Luján, Democrat of New Mexico, the chairman of the DCCC, who faced no serious challenger this year. Rep. Luján wrote a letter to his counterpart at the NRCC asking them not to use the documents stolen by Russia. But he wasn’t the only one.

Ms. Pelosi sent a similar letter in early September to Mr. Ryan. Neither received a response. By October, the Congressional Leadership Fund, a “super PAC” tied to Mr. Ryan, had used the stolen material in another advertisement, attacking Mr. Garcia during the general election in Florida.

Notice the timing on this. Pelosi sent a letter to Ryan in early September and by October, his super PAC had used the stolen material in an ad attacking Garcia in Florida.

It’s important to note what took place between early September and October.

The White House’s reluctance to take that risk left Washington weighing more-limited measures, including the “naming and shaming” approach of publicly blaming Moscow.

By mid-September, White House officials had decided it was time to take that step, but they worried that doing so unilaterally and without bipartisan congressional backing just weeks before the election would make Obama vulnerable to charges that he was using intelligence for political purposes.

Instead, officials devised a plan to seek bipartisan support from top lawmakers and set up a secret meeting with the Gang of 12 — a group that includes House and Senate leaders, as well as the chairmen and ranking members of both chambers’ committees on intelligence and homeland security.

Obama dispatched Monaco, FBI Director James B. Comey and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to make the pitch for a “show of solidarity and bipartisan unity” against Russian interference in the election, according to a senior administration official…

In a secure room in the Capitol used for briefings involving classified information, administration officials broadly laid out the evidence U.S. spy agencies had collected, showing Russia’s role in cyber-intrusions in at least two states and in hacking the emails of the Democratic organizations and individuals.

And they made a case for a united, bipartisan front in response to what one official described as “the threat posed by unprecedented meddling by a foreign power in our election process.”

In mid-September, House Speaker Paul Ryan was one of 12 Congressional leaders who was briefed by Obama’s counterterrorism and homeland security advisor, the FBI Director and the Sec. of Homeland Security about Russian interference in the election. There was a call for a bipartisan response to foreign meddling in our election process. But within weeks of that briefing, Ryan’s super pac was using information provided to them via this meddling to attack a Democratic candidate.

Speaker Ryan can make all of the meaningless statements he wants to about how it is unacceptable for a foreign government to interfere in our elections. But before those words have any actual meaning, he needs to answer some very real questions about how his own political organization knowingly participated with that interference.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.