U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio got some news at a Senate hearing on influence in the 2016 election — the Russians may have been targeting him during the GOP primary.
He also revealed that his former presidential campaign staff was unsuccessfully attacked by hackers as recently as Wednesday.
Clinton Watts, a national security expert with the George Washington Center for Cyber and Homeland Security, testified Thursday before the Senate Intelligence Committee in Washington that suspected Russian trolling operations and websites tried to influence the presidential race long before the summer.
“Through the end of 2015 and the start of 2016, the Russian-influenced system began to push themes and messages seeking to influence the result of the presidential election,” he said.
“Russian overt media outlets and covert trolls sought to sideline opponents on both sides of the political spectrum with adverse views towards the Kremlin,” Watts said. “They were in full swing during both the Republican and Democratic primary season, and may have helped sink the hopes of candidates more hostile to Russian interests long before the field narrowed.”
“Senator Rubio, in my opinion, you anecdotally suffered from those efforts,” he told the Florida Republican.
He would not comment on that information, other than saying it would be reflected in the committee report.
But Rubio then said hackers based in Russia unsuccessfully attempted to hack his former campaign staff twice, in July 2016 and at 10:45 a.m. Wednesday.
Earlier, he said the country was “in the midst of a blitzkrieg” of Russian disinformation efforts aimed at “pit[ting] Americans against each other,” according to CNN.
CNN also quoted Watts as saying he was concerned about President Donald Trump’s reaction to revelations that the Russians were trying to damage his campaign opponents.
“My biggest fear is I don’t know what America’s stance is on Russia,” he said. “I’m going to walk out of here, [and] ain’t nobody gonna have my back.”
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