A dossier containing critical information about Donald Trump that was hacked from files belonging to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) was posted on the internet on Wednesday, prompting the presumptive Republican nominee to claim his political adversaries, not Russian hackers, were responsible.
The hack of the DNC server, which a specialist cybersecurity company attributed to hackers connected to Russian intelligence, gave outsiders access to internal emails, chat messages and a 200-page book of opposition research that the committee had compiled on Trump.
On Wednesday, Gawker and the Smoking Gun published copies of what appeared to be the Trump files taken from the DNC. The websites said they had been contacted by an anonymous source claiming to be linked to the hack.
“This is all information that has been out there for many years,” said the presumptive Republican nominee in a statement. “Much of it is false and/or entirely inaccurate. We believe it was the DNC that did the ‘hacking’ as a way to distract from the many issues facing their deeply flawed candidate and failed party leader. Too bad the DNC doesn’t hack Crooked Hillary’s 33,000 missing emails.”
Hacking experts and former US officials said it was indeed possible that hackers linked to the Russian government would spread intelligence to US media as part of an “information warfare” campaign.
The cybersecurity company investigating the breach for the party, Crowdstrike, stood by its analysis that the hackers inside the DNC’s system were linked to the Russian government. The company said it believed some of the hackers worked for Russian military intelligence and others may be associated with the Federal Security Service, known as the FSB.
Related: Six things we learned from the hacked DNC file on Donald Trump
“These claims do nothing to lessen our findings relating to the Russian government’s involvement,” Crowdstrike said in a statement.
“Although it’s a bit ridiculous sounding I also could see a scenario where the Russian intelligence agents feel that this is an opportunity to shape the debate some,” said Robert Lee, founder and CEO of Dragos Security and a former cyber warfare operations officer for the US Air Force. “Russian info ops are one of their strong suits.”
Lee said Crowdstrike’s analysis of the hacking tools used against the DNC was “really good”, though he added it is possible the hack could have been done by hackers-for-hire working for the Russian government.
The hack came as Trump is suffering one of his worst weeks of the campaign. Republican lawmakers in Washington are continuing to back away from their party’s presumptive nominee and some are refusing to even mention his name.
On the campaign trail, Trump has followed his attack on a federal judge’s Mexican heritage by doubling down on his Muslim ban and accusing American Muslims of knowing of terrorist plots and concealing them from law enforcement.
Recent polling shows Trump viewed unfavorably by 70% of voters, a record for a major party nominee and losing to presumptive Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton by a double digit margin in a general election matchup.
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