Sanders hits Facebook, GOP in response to alleged Russian hack of Ukrainian gas company

Sanders hits Facebook, GOP in response to alleged Russian hack of Ukrainian gas company
© Greg Nash

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersNYT editorial board endorses Warren, Klobuchar for Democratic nomination for president Trump rails against impeachment in speech to Texas farmers Biden breaks away from 2020 pack in South Carolina MORE (I-Vt.) on Tuesday criticized Facebook and Senate Republicans in response to reports of Russia hacking the Ukrainian gas company at the center of the impeachment inquiry into President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rails against impeachment in speech to Texas farmers Trump administration planning to crack down on 'birth tourism': report George Conway on Trump adding Dershowitz, Starr to legal team: 'Hard to see how either could help' MORE.

"The 2020 election is likely to be the most consequential election in modern American history, and I am alarmed by new reports that Russia recently hacked into the Ukrainian gas company at the center of the impeachment trial, as well as Russia’s plans to once again meddle in our elections and in our democracy," the 2020 presidential candidate said in a statement.

"After our intelligence agencies unanimously agreed that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, including with thousands of paid ads on Facebook, the New York Times now reports that Russia likely represents the biggest threat of election meddling in 2020, including through disinformation campaigns, promoting hatred, hacking into voting systems, and by exploiting the political divisions sewn by Donald Trump. Meanwhile, the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocrats worry a speedy impeachment trial will shut out public George Conway group drops ad seeking to remind GOP senators of their 'sworn oaths' ahead of impeachment trial GOP senator 'open' to impeachment witnesses 'within the scope' of articles MORE, has shown again and again his total disinterest in taking even basic steps to stand up to Russian interference."

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Cybersecurity firm Area 1 Security on Monday released a report claiming that hackers affiliated with Russia's military began a phishing campaign against Burisma Holdings in November.

The efforts to steal email credentials coincided with the House's investigation into a phone call where Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenNYT editorial board endorses Warren, Klobuchar for Democratic nomination for president Trump rails against impeachment in speech to Texas farmers Biden breaks away from 2020 pack in South Carolina MORE and his son Hunter, a former Burisma board member.

The hackers were affiliated with the GRU, the military intelligence unit that used phishing methods to obtain usernames and passwords of Democratic National Committee staff in 2016, according to Area 1.

The California-based firm found that the hackers successfully secured login credentials from some employees at Burisma and successfully infiltrated one of the company’s servers. 

After criticizing Senate Republicans for not approving election security measures passed by the House, Sanders re-upped his concerns with Facebook.

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“It is nothing short of reckless for Facebook to continue enabling and profiting from election interference done through advertising that contains lies, falsehoods, and misleading information," the Vermont senator said.

"Facebook can help us come together as people despite our differences, but Facebook and other tech companies have become so powerful and so greedy that they seem willing to allow foreign powers like Russia continue to meddle in our elections so long as it helps their bottom line."

The social media platform earlier this month reaffirmed its decision to allow misinformation in political advertising and micro-targeting.

The policy has been under fire for months from Democratic lawmakers and advocacy groups who allege it rolls out the red carpet for malicious actors that want to deceive Americans.