MIAMI (CBSMiami) — The scandal of Russian hackers trying to disrupt U.S. elections is growing as reports reveal a South Florida congressional race was targeted.
CBS News also reports that U.S. officials are convinced Russia’s president approved of the cyber attacks.
It was revealed in July that Russian cyber thieves had cracked into servers, stealing emails from the Democratic National Committee that showed party leaders had conspired to support Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders in the presidential primary.
The scandal forced DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz to resign. According to CBS News, the DNC sat for months on the info that it was hacked.
“After discovering the intrusion, we treated it very seriously, and immediately reached out to CrowdStrike, a respected cybersecurity firm,” said Wasserman Schultz. “They advised us on how to kick out the intruders, secure our network, and protect our operations. We acted on the information that we were aware of at the time, based on advice from our experts.”
It was also learned Democratic congressional campaigns had been hacked. The New York Times reports a South Florida connection.
The Times says the hackers targeted former Lt. Governor candidate Annette Taddeo in her Democratic congressional primary against former Congressman Joe Garcia. Garcia won the primary.
“It’s very worrisome that this wasn’t just the Russians trying to influence the presidential election. They went even further,” Taddeo told CBS4 News Thursday. She said the hacking may have cost her the primary election.
“You have strategies and all kinds of polling that you do, like a football team has plays,” Taddeo said. She said her stolen “playbook” may have guaranteed Republican incumbent Carlos Curbelo’s victory over Joe Garcia in November.
Garcia declined to comment Thursday, but a former close advisor, Juan Penalosa, said “Joe won the primary race because he was the better candidate.”
Penalosa added that Taddeo wasn’t the only one hacked.
“The attackers released internal information on Joe’s campaign, as well,” Penalosa said.
According to the New York Times report, the hackers targeted a dozen democratic primaries across the country in an effort to assure Republican victories in the ensuing general election.
Taddeo says in any event, “hackergate” has to stop.
“We need to get to the bottom of it, to make sure that we know what they’re capable of and that we can stop it from ever happening again,” Taddeo said.
Also Thursday, CBS News reported that U.S. intelligence officials are convinced Russian President Vladimir Putin gave his blessing to the hacking into U.S. election processes.
The CBS report quoted unnamed sources, who said the hacking was too broad and went on for too long for Putin not to be involved.
“The orders to do it would have had to come from the highest level,” CBS quoted one source as saying.
President-Elect Donald Trump has previously scoffed at the notion of an organized Russian government effort to disrupt U.S. elections, and he was disdainful of the notion again on Thursday.
“If Russia, or some other entity, was hacking, why did the White House wait so long to act? Why did they only complain after Hillary lost,” Trump asked in one of his prolific tweets.
The president-elect finds himself at odds with members of both political parties. Democrats and Republicans alike are lining up to demand a broad investigation. Some have suggested the creation of an independent, 9/11-type commission to conduct a sweeping probe.
In an October report, the Director of National Intelligence said there was broad agreement among agencies that the “Russian government” was behind the cyber attacks. The report did not single out President Putin by name.