No, you still cannot easily buy a cup of coffee with bitcoin.
But it turns out you can use the cryptocurrency in an effort to sway an election.
The outcome, of course, is not news. Neither is the fact that the debate over collusion/obstruction (yes or no or maybe) is still ongoing – and may always be ongoing.
But within the 448 pages are several mentions of bitcoin and how the crypto was used to transact for all manner of activities that ultimately sought to help Donald Trump win the presidency.
Key among the disclosures was the fact that Russians with the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), through the use of stolen identities, set up accounts used to accumulate bitcoin and then use the bitcoin to buy technology and websites that were leveraged in attacks on the Democratic National Committee.
The Unit and the Cryptos
Per the findings: “Military Unit 26165 is a GRU cyber unit dedicated to targeting military, political, governmental and non-governmental organizations outside of Russia, including in the United States. The unit was sub-divided into departments with different specialties. One department, for example, developed specialized malicious software ‘malware,’ while another department conducted large-scale spearphishing campaigns… and a redacted portion points toward a bitcoin mining operation.”
“The GRU began planning the releases at least as early as April 19, 2016, when Unit 26165 registered the domain dcleaks.com through a service that anonymized the registrant,” wrote Mueller and his team, also noting that the Unit 26165 had targeted sites such as dnc.org and hillaryclinton.com and had “primary responsibility” for hacking the DNC and accounts of Clinton campaign staffers and affiliates. Elsewhere, the report details that the Russian agents had bought (with bitcoin) a VPN that was used to manage Twitter accounts that leaked information that had been hacked from those and other sites.
In another example, according to the report, “Unit 26165 paid for the registration using a pool of bitcoin that it had mined” in order to establish dcleaks.com, where links to stolen documents were posted. Bitcoins were kept in an account on bitcoin platform CEX.io. It is the use of bitcoin via exchanges and the stolen/fabricated identities and wallets that helped point the way to how bitcoin was deployed by the Russians.
The final report from Mueller echoes findings from a 2018 indictment of 13 individuals who bought fake IDs and engaged in activities to influence the election (including establishing dcleaks.com as mentioned above), and where, per that earlier indictment, “the defendants conspired to launder the equivalent of more than $95,000 through a web of transactions structured to capitalize on the perceived anonymity of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin.