Early on Tuesday (Australian time), US special investigator Robert Mueller’s team issued its first indictments in a wide-ranging probe into Russian influence over Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and associate Rick Gates were charged with offences including conspiracy against the US, acting as unregistered agents of Ukraine’s government, conspiracy to launder money, failing to disclose overseas bank accounts, and making false or misleading statements to investigators. They pleaded not guilty.
Meanwhile, Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI over his relationship with Russian operatives.
Central to the whole mess is a 2016 leak of hacked Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails that embarrassed Hillary Clinton and her party. Trump controversially appeared to urge Russia to share more of the emails, telling a news conference in July 2016, “I will tell you this, Russia: if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”
US authorities believe a Russian cyber espionage group known as Fancy Bear was responsible for obtaining the DNC’s emails, which were later published by Wikileaks.
A man claiming to be a member of Fancy Bear has spoken with SBS VICELAND show Cyberwar. In the episode, the man claims he was part of the team that hacked the DNC. He says they were commissioned to act via an internet message board, obscuring the identity of those seeking the hack.
Obscuring his own identity, the man says he has decided to speak out in the hope of escaping jail in Russia, believing authorities need a scapegoat now that the hack is public knowledge.
“Maybe it will help me to get out of the country,” he tells Cyberwar.
Ominously, the hacker claims to still have access to servers belonging to some of the top 100 US companies. Perhaps Fancy Bear, if it's now in hibernation, could wake up.
Fancy Bear speaks with Cyberwar streaming now at SBS On Demand: