WASHINGTON, D.C. — A group affiliated with the online activist group Anonymous posted Thursday what it says are the private cellphone numbers and email addresses of 22 Republican members of Congress — including Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley — in a bid to push for President Donald Trump’s impeachment — reigniting the use of hacked information in U.S. politics.
Rob Pfeiffer, chief editor of online publication The Anon Journal, said the move was spurred by Trump’s contentious reaction to violent clashes in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend. The president set off a furor after he made it clear he had no intention of backing down from his claims that “both sides” were to blame for the mayhem that left one woman dead and dozens injured.
Trump belatedly condemned the neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan groups that organized the Unite the Right, before then doubling down on his original contention.
The president has been sharply criticized by a wide swath of the country, including by leading Republicans.
Pfeiffer said the private contact information of the Republican members of Congress was obtained by a group known as “AnonOps.” Pfeiffer said he did not know how the information was obtained, whether it was a leak or an online hack.
He said some of the cellphone numbers, for example, had been verified as real.
Grassley’s office declined to comment to The Gazette when asked about it.
Among the other politicians on the list were U.S. Sens. Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Bob Corker of Tennessee.
The goal, Pfeiffer believed, was for people to contact these members of Congress to more forcefully condemn the president and call for his impeachment.
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The release by Anonymous marks an end of nearly two years of near-total silence for the decentralized group. Anonymous was mostly absent during last year’s presidential campaign as leaks from online groups WikiLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 featuring Democratic officials’ emails dominated headlines and, in the eyes of some, altered the course of the election.
That has changed.
“Trump did something in the past few days along with the Charlottesville terror attack that clicked,” Pfeiffer wrote to The Post.
Anonymous was further spurred to action after it appeared that the white supremacist site Daily Stormer fell offline Sunday and was blaming Anonymous. Anonymous denied involvement, instead suggesting Daily Stormer was having trouble finding a new web hosting service after GoDaddy announced it would no longer would.
Thursday’s posting by Anonymous comes one day before “Denouncement Day,” in which some members of Anonymous are calling on people to gather at confederate statues in 11 cities and tear them down.
The push to remove Confederate memorials has gained momentum nationwide since the Charlottesville clash. Mayors from Lexington, Ky., to Salisbury, Md., and Gainesville, Fla., have called for the monuments to be taken down.
Pfeiffer said more GOP lawmakers could see their personal contact information released soon.
James Q. Lynch of The Gazette contributed to this report.