Rep. Darrell Issa said Tuesday he was not informed of the details of an apparent Russia-backed hack that infiltrated the White House’s computer network last year until media reports began surfacing earlier in the day.
Issa was asked during a CNN appearance by Wolf Blitzer if he was made aware of the severity of the breach, which included access to nonpublic details of President Obama’s daily schedule.
“Only recently and from the same reports,” Issa, who serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said.
Earlier Tuesday, CNN reported that Russian hackers were able to obtain sensitive—though not classified—information during its breach of the White House’s system, which was first confirmed in October. At the time, officials acknowledged the incident but attempted to downplay its scope and seriousness, saying classified files were not vulnerable and that computers were unharmed.
“It’s more than just sensitive,” Issa said. “Who the president meets with, where, when, even if it’s retrospectively, quite frankly, is material kept from Congress in many cases. So this is very sensitive information and it’s indicative of the fact that Russia is reassembling its evil empire in many ways.”
Issa’s indication that he was unaware of the details of the hack suggests other members of Congress may also not have been fully briefed on the matter.
A National Security Council spokesman tried to downplay the seriousness of CNN’s report in a statement issued Tuesday evening.
“This report is not referring to a new incident—it is speculating on the attribution of the activity of concern on the unclassified EOP network that the White House disclosed last year,” spokesman Mark Stroh said. “Any such activity is something we take very seriously. In this case, as we made clear at the time, we took immediate measures to evaluate and mitigate the activity. As has been our position, we are not going to comment on the referenced article’s attribution to specific actors.”
The Russian hackers were able to enter the White House’s system via a breach made at the State Department, according to CNN. Security experts had long suspected the two breaches may have been linked.
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"President Donald Trump’s nominee to be ambassador to Russia was unequivocal Tuesday in calling out the federation’s interference in the 2016 election in the United States. 'There is no question—underline no question—that the Russian government interfered in the U.S. election last year, and Moscow continues to meddle in the democratic processes of our friends and allies,' Jon Huntsman Jr., told the Foreign Relations Committee."