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The Mysterious DNC Hacker Has Been Confirmed as a Russian Intelligence Front

March 24, 2018, 7:00 PM UTC

An online persona “Guccifer 2.0,” which claimed credit for hacking the Democratic National Committee ahead of the 2016 election, has been confirmed as a front for Russian military intelligence. The confirmation has significant implications for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.

During the U.S. election, Guccifer 2.0 presented itself online as an independent Romanian hacker. The name was supposedly an homage to Guccifer, an actual Romanian hacker who targeted U.S. politicians and uncovered Hillary Clinton’s private email server. Guccifer 2.0 obtained email archives from the Democratic National Committee, then released them to outlets including WikiLeaks. Those emails appeared to show DNC efforts to thwart Clinton primary challenger Bernie Sanders, likely damaging her support among progressive Democrats.

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But skepticism about Guccifer 2.0’s identity has been widespread, and U.S. intelligence authorities have previously said it was likely a Russian operation. But there has been little hard evidence, because the persona generally went online using a VPN, or Virtual Private Network, to mask the origin of its activities. Now, The Daily Beast reports that investigators have found a single instance in which that VPN was not activated, and have identified Guccifer 2.0 as a front run by a specific but unnamed Russian military intelligence officer within the military intelligence agency known as the GRU.

That’s an important confirmation for one clear reason: Guccifer 2.0 has communicated directly with members of Donald Trump’s inner circle. Roger Stone, one of the most flamboyant of Trump’s allies and a onetime campaign adviser, admitted in March that he had exchanged congratulatory messages with Guccifer 2.0 on Twitter during the election.

Stone’s known communications came after the release of hacked DNC emails, but Stone also made statements suggesting he knew about some parts of the hacked DNC emails before they were made public. According to The Daily Beast, the FBI agents who tracked Guccifer 2.0 have now become part of Mueller’s team.