A group affiliated with the online activist group known as Anonymous Thursday posted what it says are the private cellphone numbers and email addresses for 22 Republican members of Congress in a bid to push for President Trump's impeachment, reigniting the use of hacked information in U.S. political battles.
Rob Pfeiffer, chief editor of online publication The Anon Journal, told The Washington Post this morning that the move was spurred by Trump's contentious reaction to violent clashes in Charlottesville 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 of others injured.
Trump belatedly condemned the neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan groups that organized the Unite the Right, before doubling down on his original contention. The president has been sharply criticized by a wide swath of the country, including by leading Republicans in Congress and top executives at major corporations -- two groups that have not typically chided Trump.
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. Among the politicians on the list were U.S. Sens. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Bob Corker of Tennessee and Charles E. Grassley of Iowa. A spokesman for Sasse's office declined to comment, while Corker and Grassley's offices did not immediately respond.
The goal of publishing the information, said Pfeiffer, is for people to call on these members of Congress to more forcefully condemn the president and ask for Trump's impeachment.
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 many, altered the course of the election.
That changed only in recent days.
"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 on 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 host the site.
Today's posting by Anonymous comes one day before the s0-called 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. In Baltimore, memorials were removed under the cover of darkness early Wednesday, on the order of that city's mayor.
Trump today tweeted that he was "(sad) to see" the loss of these Confederate symbols, further stoking the controversy.
Pfeiffer said more GOP lawmakers could see their personal contact information released soon.