October 31, 2016,
By Lisa Hagen
A computer scientist tracking malware and going by the name “Tea Leaves” has discovered a pattern of conversation that appears to tie a server registered to the Donald Trump organization to two Russian servers registered to something called Alfa Bank.According to a new report from Slate, computer scientists began looking into GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump’s servers in the wake of the hack into the Democratic National Committee (DNC) that U.S. intelligence has blamed on Russian actors.
“We wanted to help defend both campaigns, because we wanted to preserve the integrity of the election,” one of the unnamed academics involved said.
Tea Leaves discovered a bank in Moscow that continually contacted a server registered to the Trump Organization. Further research of the pattern of conversations revealed they would occur during office hours in both New York and Moscow, Slate reported.
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and critics have criticized Trump for praising Russian President Vladimir Putin. But Trump has pushed back, saying he has “nothing to do” with Russia and doesn’t know Putin.
That hasn’t stopped his opponents from alleging ties between the two. On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) alleged that FBI has “explosive information” about a connection between Trump and the Russian government, suggesting that federal investigators have unveiled damning new information about Trump.
And later that same day, NBC reported that the FBI is looking into former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s foreign business and political dealings. He became a liability for the Trump campaign amid reports of his involvement with a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.
Clinton’s campaign quickly seized on the Slate report Monday night and senior policy adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement that it is “the most direct link yet between Donald Trump and Moscow.”
"This line of communication may help explain Trump's bizarre adoration of Vladimir Putin and endorsement of so many pro-Kremlin positions throughout this campaign,” Sullivan said. “It raises even more troubling questions in light of Russia's masterminding of hacking efforts that are clearly intended to hurt Hillary Clinton's campaign. We can only assume that federal authorities will now explore this direct connection between Trump and Russia as part of their existing probe into Russia's meddling in our elections."
The group forwarded their findings to computer science expert Paul Vixie, who told concluded, “The parties were communicating in a secretive fashion. The operative word is secretive. This is more akin to what criminal syndicates do if they are putting together a project.”
As Slate explains it, the Trump and Alfa servers had something like a digital hotline connecting the two and hiding their existence. The Slate report concludes that though it does not yet “know what this server was for, … it deserves further explanation.”