A long-overlooked player is emerging as a key figure in the Trump-Russia investigation

A congressional committee wants to interview President Donald Trump's digital director as part of its investigation. Investigators are probing whether voter information stolen by Russian hackers made its way to the Trump campaign. A top official said Russia targeted election systems in at least 21 states. The House Intelligence Committee plans to interview the digital director for President Donald Trump's campaign, Brad Parscale, as it continues to investigate whether any collusion occurred between the campaign and Russia, according to a recent CNN report.

The ranking Democrat on the committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, would not confirm whether Parscale had been invited to testify as part of the congressional investigation.

But Schiff told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow this week that he is "very interested in finding out" whether there was "Russian funding or support" for the Trump campaign's data analytics operation, "or Russian assistance in any way with gathering data" that was then used by the campaign.

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Key Trump officials, advisers of note in the Russia probe
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Key Trump officials, advisers of note in the Russia probe

Tom Barrack

The close friend to Donald Trump and CEO of private equity firm Colony Capital recommended that Trump bring in Paul Manafort for his presidential campaign.

R. James Woolsey

Woolsey, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), has cooperated with Mueller's investigation and worked with Michael Flynn and was present at a meeting where they discussed removing the controversial Turkish Muslim cleric Fetullah Gulen from US soil. 

(Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The former senior Trump campaign official and White House adviser was present and crucial during the firings of Michael Flynn and James Comey.

The former head of the Trump transition team following the 2016 election has said previously that he believes he was fired due to his opposing the hiring of Michael Flynn as national security adviser.

Jeff Sessions

Former U.S. senator Jeff Sessions from Alabama joined Trump's campaign as a foreign policy adviser in February 2016. Sessions was nominated to be U.S. attorney general by President Trump and was then confirmed by the Senate. Reports then emerged that Sessions had spoken twice with Sergey Kislyak while he was senator -- a fact that he left out of his Senate hearing testimony. Instead, he said in writing that he had not communicated with any Russian officials during the campaign season. Sessions defended himself saying he had spoken with Kislyak specifically in a senate capacity.

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort signed on as Donald Trump's campaign manager in March 2016. A longtime Republican strategist and beltway operative, Manafort had previously served as an adviser to former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich -- a pro-Russia leader who was violently ousted in 2014. Manafort resigned from his campaign position in August 2016 amid questions over his lobbying history in Ukraine for an administration supportive of Russia. The former campaign manager reportedly remained in Trump's circle during the post-election transition period.

Michael Flynn

Gen. Michael Flynn was named President Trump's national security adviser in November of 2016. Flynn reportedly met and spoke with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December, at one point discussing sanctions. Flynn originally told Vice President Pence he did not discuss sanctions -- a point the Department of Justice said made the national security adviser subject to blackmail. Flynn resigned from his position in February.

Donald Trump

2016 election winner Donald Trump is at the center of special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russia's handlings.

Sam Clovis

Clovis, a former member of the Trump campaign, arrives on at the U.S. Capitol December 12, 2017 to appear before a closed meeting of the House Intelligence Committee. Clovis worked with George Papadopoulos, a former Donald Trump campaign foreign policy advisor who struck a plea deal on charges of lying to the FBI.

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Roger Stone

Stone is a longtime Republican political consultant who served as a campaign adviser to Trump who continued to talk with the then-GOP candidate after stepping away from his adviser role. Stone claimed last year that he had knowledge of the planned WikiLeaks release of emails pertaining to Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. Stone recently admitted to speaking via direct message with "Guccifer 2.0" -- an online entity U.S. officials believe is tied to Russia. Stone says the correspondence was “completely innocuous.”

Carter Page

Page worked for Merrill Lynch as an investment banker out of their Moscow office for three years before joining Trump's campaign as a foreign policy adviser. During his time with Merrill Lynch, Page advised transactions for two major Russian entities. Page has called Washington "hypocritical" for focusing on corruption and democratization in addressing U.S. relations with Russia. While Page is someone Trump camp has seemingly tried to distance itself from, Page recently said he has made frequent visits to Trump Tower.

J.D. Gordon

Before Gordon joined the Trump campaign as a national security adviser in March 2016, he served as a Pentagon spokesman from 2005 through 2009. Like others involved in Trump-Russia allegations, Gordon met with ambassador Kislyak in July at the Republican National Convention, but has since denied any wrongdoing in their conversation. He advocated for and worked to revise the RNC language on and position toward Ukraine relations, so it was more friendly toward Russia's dealings in the country.

Former Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo (L)

Caputo waves goodbye to reporters after he testified before the House Intelligence Committee during a closed-door session at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center July 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. Caputo resigned from being a Trump campaign communications advisor after appearing to celebrate the firing of former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Denying any contact with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign, Caputo did live in Moscow during the 1990s, served as an adviser to former Russian President Boris Yeltsin and did pro-Putin public relations work for the Russian conglomerate Gazprom Media.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Stephen Miller, White House Senior Advisor for Policy

Jason Miller
Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer
Eric Trump
Donald Trump Jr.
Ivanka Trump
White House Senior adviser Jared Kushner
Executive assistant to Donald Trump Rhona Graff
White House Communications Director Hope Hicks
Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski
US Vice President Mike Pence
Katrina Pierson
K.T. McFarland
Former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci
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Congressional investigators are now probing whether voter information stolen by Russian hackers from election databases in several states made its way to the Trump campaign, Time reported on Thursday. The data operation Parscale directed was supervised by Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who is now being scrutinized by the FBI over his contacts with Russia's ambassador and the CEO of a sanctioned Russian bank in December.

"If any campaign, Trump or otherwise, used inappropriate data the questions are, how did they get it? From whom? And with what level of knowledge?" the former top Democratic staffer on the House Intelligence Committee, Michael Bahar, told Time. "That is a crux of the investigation."

Kushner, a person familiar with the campaign's inner workings told Business Insider, "was Parscale's patron."

"Jared got [Brad] hired, despite the fact that a number of people in the campaign wondered whether he had any idea what he was doing," the person said. "He's Jared's boy. I had [campaign] deputies telling me they couldn't question anything the guy did or said, and they were unhappy about that."

Parscale did not respond to a request for comment. He is now the digital media director for America First Policies, a nonprofit group whose aim is to bolster Trump's agenda.

Kushner also did not respond to a request for comment.

Parscale's firm, Giles-Parscale, was paid a whopping $91 million by the Trump campaign, which famously shunned television ads. According to CNN, the data operation "helped the Trump campaign figure out where the candidate's message was resonating in states like Michigan and Wisconsin, places where conventional political wisdom suggested they would be wasting time and money."

A senior GOP strategist who worked with Parscale on the Republican National Committee's digital operations last year denied that he oversaw or was even aware of any nefarious collaboration between hackers and the campaign.

"When it was reported that they'd be calling up Parscale, I knew there was a 0% chance that they had anything," the strategist said, referring to the House Intelligence Committee. "The questions they want to ask him are apparently some of the most basic digital marketing questions, and other simple ones like 'how would the Russians have known which precincts to target?'"

At least one Republican operative, however, made use of voter data stolen by Russian hackers last year: Florida political strategist Aaron Nevins.

trump trump trump trumpReuters

Guccifer 2.0, the self-described hacker that US intelligence officials and cybersecurity experts have linked to Russian military intelligence, sent 2.5 gigabytes of voter analysis data compiled by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to Nevins late last summer, The Wall Street Journal reported late last month.

The documents provided to Nevins, who then posted them on his blog, analyzed districts in Florida, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. They showed "how many people were dependable Democratic voters, how many were likely Democratic voters but needed a nudge, how many were frequent voters but not committed, and how many were core Republican voters — the kind of data strategists use in planning ad buys and other tactics," the Journal said.

The exposure of that voter data, which Nevins remarked was worth "millions of dollars," led at least one Republican campaign consultant, Anthony Bustamante, to "adjust" the voting targets of the campaign he was advising at the time, according to the Journal.

"Basically if this was a war, this is the map to where all the troops are deployed," Nevins told Guccifer 2.0 in a text message, according to the Journal.

Nevins said he had no regrets in using the "map," even if it had been handed to the Russians.

"If your interests align, never shut any doors in politics," he told The Journal.

The theft of sensitive voter data by Russian-linked hackers like Guccifer 2.0 has left upcoming elections vulnerable to manipulation, experts say. Virginia and New Jersey will hold gubernatorial elections later this year, and all 435 seats in the House and one-third of the 100 seats in the Senate will be contested in the 2018 midterm elections.

Jeanette Manfra, a top official in the DHS's National Protection and Programs Directorate, told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday that Russian hackers targeted election systems in at least 21 states last year. Bloomberg reported last week that as many as 39 states were targeted.

Sam Liles, the DHS's top cyber official, told lawmakers on Wednesday that the Russians probed election infrastructure and successfully infiltrated a "small number of networks." According to Time, the hackers successfully altered voter information in at least one election database and stole thousands of voter records containing private information like Social Security numbers.

preistapJoshua Roberts/Reuters

The cyberattacks continued right up to the election, according to a top-secret National Security Agency document leaked to the Intercept and published earlier this month. The document revealed that hackers associated with Russia's military intelligence agency targeted a company with information on US voting software days before the election, and used the data to launch "voter-registration-themed" cyberattacks on local government officials.

Bill Priestap, one of the FBI's top counterintelligence officials, told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday that the type of data can be used "in a variety of ways," including to manipulate future elections and target individual voters. As Nevins, the Florida Republican operative, had said, the data is also extremely valuable — politically and financially.

Earlier this week, it emerged that data-analytics firm hired by the Republican National Committee last year to gather political information about US voters accidentally leaked the sensitive personal details of roughly 198 million citizens earlier this month, as its database was left exposed on the open web for nearly two weeks.

Upon reviewing the exposed data — which included names, dates of birth, home addresses, phone numbers, and voter registration details, as well as proprietary information based on predictive models of voters' behavior — Joseph Lorenzo Hall, the chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology said simply: "This data is worth a s---load of money."

Archie Agarwal, the founder of the cybersecurity firm ThreatModeler, agreed that the data was a "gold mine" for anyone looking to target and manipulate voters. The security researcher who discovered the leaked database, Chris Vickery, said it was the kind of information "you can use to steal an election at the state and local level. It tells you who you need to advertise to to swing votes."

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