FBI probe reveals no direct link between Trump and Russian government

WASHINGTON, U.S. - An elite team of computer scientists early in July stumbled upon evidence possibly connecting a Donald Trump mail server to a separate server belonging to Russia’s ...


• Reports of Trump server connected to Russia, Clinton camp urges thorough probe

• Possibility of Trump victory jolts markets

• Putin wants Russia to get rid of Microsoft

WASHINGTON, U.S. - An elite team of computer scientists early in July stumbled upon evidence possibly connecting a Donald Trump mail server to a separate server belonging to Russia’s Alfa Bank, a financial outfit tied to the Kremlin, a discovery reported by online magazine Slate.

Following a number of cyber attacks on the Democrat election campaign allegedly masterminded by Russia, scientists wanted to look into whether the Trump campaign had been similarly compromised by hackers. 

As reported by Slate, the discovery came as an anonymous DNS specialist, who prefers to be referred to as Tea Leaves, noticed malware emanating from Russia, requesting access to a server registered to the Trump Organisation.

By analysing DNS logs, experts found a secret steady line of communication between trump-email.com and Alfa Bank, suggesting deliberate strategic communications or payments between the Republican nominee and Russia. 

Several outlets have, however, shot down the story, claiming there is no real merit in it. 

Security researcher Robert Graham reveals that the server likely belongs to some affiliate marketing company that appears to be sending spam to people affiliated with Alpha Bank (executives from the bank likely stayed at one of Trump’s properties at some point, resulting in the spam message).

Trump’s campaign told Slate that the server in question was not being used by the Trump Organisation.

FBI believes otherwise

The New York Times has reported that the FBI's investigations have, so far, not found any conclusive or direct link between the Republican presidential nominee and the Russian government. 

According to the Times, an FBI investigation concluded the interaction could have been a coincidence.

The U.S. government has publicly accused senior levels of Russian government of being behind the hacks on Clinton's team and the release of sensitive documents online. 

However, FBI and intelligence officials now believe, it was mainly aimed at disrupting the U.S. presidential election rather than getting Trump elected.

On the campaign trail, Trump has regularly heaped praise on Russian President Putin and criticised both Hillary Clinton and President Obama for taking a hard line against the Russian strongman.

Trump's ex-campaign manager Paul Manafort, meanwhile, has denied any link with pro-Russian businesses in Ukraine. 

There are allegations that the ex-manager may have registered as a “foreign agent” for Ukraine in the United States or inappropriately funnelled money from Ukraine into lobbying efforts.

Conspiracy theories, however, continue to keep sprouting. 

‘Trump has been compromised’

Former spy Mother Jones has published claims that Russian intelligence “compromised” Trump during his visits to Moscow and could “blackmail him.”

The former Western intelligence officer reportedly spent almost 20 years working on Russian intelligence matters and now works for a U.S. firm gathering information on Russia for corporate clients.

Hillary Clinton's supporters have vociferously pushed for these investigations. 

Hoping to get some mileage, the Democrat presidential nominee waded into the controversy, and tweeted, calling for an investigation into Trump’s ties with Russia.

In recent days, the Democrats have also demanded that FBI Director James B. Comey discuss Russia-Trump investigations publicly, as he did last week when he announced that new emails possibly connected to Hillary Clinton's private server had been discovered. 

Clinton has expressed confidence that the FBI's latest probe will not find anything that could derail her presidential aspirations.

Comey’s letter to Congress on the renewed FBI investigation has provided Republicans with fresh fodder for attack in the waning days of the campaign. 

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said on Tuesday that a Clinton presidency would bog down in “scandal baggage.”

U.S. election fears jolt markets

With less than a week for the U.S. presidential elections, markets appear spooked with the possibility of a Trump victory.

The Vix index, a measure of expected U.S. stock market volatility known as Wall Street’s “fear gauge,” neared highs last seen in the aftermath of the U.K.’s vote to leave the European Union this June. 

Asian equities took their cue from the shaky U.S. markets on Wednesday, with major bourses in the region all shedding more than one percent.

Microsoft caught in U.S.-Russia battle crosshairs

The Kremlin is backing a plan to rid government offices and state-controlled companies of all foreign software, starting with Moscow city government replacing Microsoft products with Russian ones, according to a senior U.S. intelligence official.

The Russians have also moved toward blocking LinkedIn, the U.S.-based networking site that Microsoft is in the process of buying. 

The company is appealing an injunction, with a decision expected on November 10.

Russian President Putin meanwhile, has called claims of his country's interference in the U.S. elections "hysteria" and an election ploy.

 

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