Russians are using materials obtained from special counsel Robert Mueller's office in a disinformation campaign apparently aimed at discrediting the investigation into Moscow's election interference, federal prosecutors said on Wednesday.
One or more people associated with the special counsel's case against Russian hackers made statements last October claiming to have stolen discovery materials that were originally provided by Mueller to Concord Management, Mueller's team said in court documents filed on Wednesday in the Russian troll farm case.
That discovery — evidence and documents traded between both sides of a lawsuit — appears to have been altered and disseminated as part of a disinformation campaign apparently aimed at discrediting the ongoing investigations in Russian interference in the U.S. political system, according to the documents.
Concord Management, a company owned by a Russian oligarch known as President Vladimir Putin's "chef," is one of three Russian entities that were accused by the special counsel last February of helping to mastermind the social media meddling into the 2016 election. Thirteen Russian citizens were also indicted and accused of taking part in the widespread effort.
According to the documents filed Wednesday, a Twitter account called @HackingRedstone tweeted: "We’ve got access to the Special Counsel Mueller’s probe database as we hacked Russian server with info from the Russian troll case Concord LLC v. Mueller. You can view all the files Mueller had about the IRA and Russian collusion. Enjoy the reading!"
The account has since been suspended.
Prosecutors said that a link attached to the tweet "contained file folders with names and folder structures that are unique to the names and structures of materials (including tracking numbers assigned by the Special Counsel’s Office) produced by the government in discovery."
Prosecutors added, "The fact that the webpage contained numerous irrelevant files suggest that the person who created the webpage used their knowledge of the nonsensitive discovery to make it appear as though the irrelevant files contained on the webpage were the sum total evidence of 'IRA and Russian collusion' gathered by law enforcement in this matter in an apparent effort to discredit the investigation."
The Internet Research Agency, or IRA, is a St. Petersburg-based firm whose key executives have also been indicted by Mueller on charges of defrauding the United States.
The special counsel's office said the account used to publish the discovery materials was registered by a user with an IP address in Russia.
The filing states that the FBI has found no evidence that U.S. government servers, including servers used by the special counsel's office, had been breached. Rather, the information appears to have come from the materials shared with attorneys for Concord Management.
According to prosecutors, attorneys for Concord Management said that they received calls from reporters about the information, but they had not been hacked. Instead, Mueller's team notes, the defense told them it appears to have come from a 2014 hack that was disseminated online — a hypothesis that was not consistent with the facts, federal prosecutors said.
On Thursday, Mueller's team updated their filing with precise dates for the actions taken on Twitter, noting that the account @HackingRedstone started sending direct messages to members of the media on October 22, before making a public tweet on October 30 in regards to the supposed discovery documents.