Russian hackers reportedly discussed how to steal Clinton's emails and transfer them to Michael Flynn



Hackers believed to be Russian discussed how to steal Hillary Clinton's emails from her private email server and transfer them to Michael Flynn via an intermediary, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, citing reports compiled by US intelligence agencies investigating Russia's interference in the 2016 election.

One of those intermediaries, according to the Journal, may have been a GOP operative named Peter W. Smith — an 80-year-old opposition researcher who assembled a team of technology experts, lawyers and a Russian-speaking investigator in September 2016 to track down hacking groups with access to the 33,000 emails Clinton deleted from her private email server that she said were personal in nature.

Smith cited a working relationship with Flynn's consulting firm, Flynn Intel Group, when trying to recruit new team members, the Journal reported. And he told Eric York, a computer-security expert from Atlanta who searched the hacker forums on his behalf, that he was "talking to Michael Flynn" about the project and to let him know if he found anything, according to the Journal.

Flynn's lawyer, Robert Kelner, did not respond to request for comment. Smith told the Journal that the hacking groups who claimed to have the deleted Clinton emails — which he could not verify, and therefore did not publish — were probably Russian.

Special counsel Robert Mueller has been leading the FBI investigation into whether any of Trump's associates colluded with Russia to undermine Clinton during the election.

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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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Longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone is also being scrutinized over his conversations with a hacker linked to Russian military intelligence, Guccifer 2.0. Stone exchanged private messages with the self-described hacker last August, and his tweets in the days after raised questions about whether he knew in advance that emails from Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta, would be imminently published by WikiLeaks.

But Flynn's potential ties to Russia have been of particular interest to the committees because of his conversations with Russia's ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, that eventually led to his ouster.

Russian officials bragged about their close relationship to Flynn last year, according to intercepted communications described to CNN, and boasted that they could use him to influence Trump. The way the Russians were talking about Flynn, said a former Obama administration official, "was a five-alarm fire from early on."

The former national security adviser is under FBI scrutiny and has asked for immunity from the bureau and the congressional intelligence committees in exchange for the freedom to tell his "story." It is unclear whether the bureau has granted Flynn immunity, but the House and Senate Intelligence committees have ruled it out.

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