Rep. Mike McCaul said he was mistaken when he spoke of a Russian hack of the Republican National Committee. – Politico
House Homeland Security Chairman Mike McCaul said that he “misspoke” Wednesday when he told CNN that Russian hackers had penetrated the computer systems of the Republican National Committee.
In a statement released shortly after his TV appearance ended, McCaul (R-Texas) said it was “Republican political operatives,” not the RNC, that had been hacked. The RNC also swiftly denied that its systems had been breached.
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On CNN, McCaul had said that Russian hackers had attacked both political parties in an effort to “infuse chaos into our election system coming up in November.”
“It’s important to note, Wolf, that they have hacked not only hacked into the DNC but also into the RNC,” McCaul said in an appearance on CNN’s “The Situation Report” with Wolf Blitzer. “So they are not discriminating one party against the others. The Russians have basically hacked into both parties at the national level and that gives us all concern about what their motivations are.”
Republican National Committee communications director and chief strategist Sean Spicer wrote on Twitter that there had been “no known breach of @gop networks,” contradicting McCaul, who said that the RNC had been informed of the breach.
The Texas congressman said he had learned of the breach “based upon the briefings I have” but said he could not go into further detail. He said he did not know the extent of the damage done to RNC networks or what data the hackers were able to retrieve. McCaul also said the hacking of the RNC is currently being investigated by the FBI.
While McCaul said there is concern that Russia could try to actually influence the outcome of the November presidential election, he said there is not evidence of hacking in key battleground states, seeming to contradict reports in the Washington Post and elsewhere.
“It’s not really so much the influence but rather to undermine the integrity of our election systems and our democracy and our way of life,” he said. “That’s what the Russians, I think, are trying to do here is undermine democracy itself and the United States as a whole, not just Republican or Democrat.”
McCaul’s office later said he had been referring to open-source reports and other briefings.
In August, POLITICO reported that D.C. Leaks, a site that has been linked to Russian intelligence services, had published a small cache of emails from campaign staffers from several Republican politicians, including Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain — both fierce critics of Russia. On Tuesday, D.C. Leaks published an archive of emails from Colin Powell, the Republican former secretary of state under George W. Bush.
In July, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said the committee may be more secure than its Democratic counterpart, whose emails were hacked and published by WikiLeaks. Emails showing top DNC officials showing favoritism toward Hillary Clinton led to the resignation of Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, then the party’s chairwoman, on July 24.
“Well, maybe they did and we have a better system at the Republican Party,” Priebus told NBC host Andrea Mitchell, who had asked why the RNC’s networks had not been similarly breached.
“Maybe our, maybe our folks are better at securing our email and our cloud and our data than the DNC,” he said. “I don’t know what the answer to that is, Andrea, but at this point, we haven’t been hacked. And we don’t expect to be. And we’re monitoring it every day, but, I can assure if someone hacked my emails, they wouldn’t find me calculating against particular candidates, and that’s not something that I would do.”