The FBI told the Illinois Republican Party months before the presidential election that its email accounts may have been hacked, and party officials later found some of its emails on a website reportedly tied to Russia's military intelligence agency, the state GOP's executive director said Sunday.
Nick Klitzing told the Chicago Tribune the FBI raised questions with the state party in June about four inactive or rarely used accounts that may have been compromised dating back to 2015.
The FBI didn't tell the state party that the possible hacking was part of a larger federal investigation into alleged Russian activity in the U.S. political system but urged officials to change passwords and take other steps to secure the email accounts.
"We thought it was weird that the FBI was giving IT advice," Klitzing said.
Klitzing said the Illinois GOP on its own found 18 of its emails on the website DCLeaks.com, which has posted more than 200 emails involving Republican activists and state parties. According to a New York Times report, U.S. intelligence officials and private cybersecurity companies believe the site was created by a unit controlled by the GRU, Russia's military intelligence agency.
The Chicago Tribune reviewed the emails provided by the state GOP and reported they dealt with such things as training requests, invitations to party events and a discussion about whether Republican U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam of Illinois should run for speaker of the House.
The FBI didn't respond to a phone message Sunday night from The Associated Press.
Questions about Russian involvement in the U.S. political system resurfaced Friday with a Washington Post report that the CIA had concluded with "high confidence" that Russia sought to influence the U.S. election on behalf of Republican Donald Trump.
Trump called the CIA's assessment "ridiculous," and his incoming chief of staff Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, insisted on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday that the RNC was not hacked.
In June, a cyberattack of the Illinois State Board of Elections involved as many as 90,000 voters, though board officials said no voting files were erased or modified. Still, after that cyberattack and another attempt in Arizona, the FBI issue a "flash alert" to states about alleged attempts to obtain voter registration information.