The use of email and email servers has become a huge issue in the US presidential campaign for both sides.
The campaign of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has denied reports that a server used by his organisation was in communication with a Russian bank.
A report on Slate.com said that activity on the server suggested a connection between it and two servers registered to a large private commercial bank in Russia, Alfa Bank.
The server was discovered by a malware hunter using the pseudonym Tea Leaves.
However, the Trump campaign’s press secretary Hope Hicks said that the email server had been set up for marketing purposes and operated by a third party. She added that it had not been used since 2010.
“The current traffic on the server from Alphabank’s IP address is regular DNS server traffic—not email traffic.
“To be clear, The Trump Organization is not sending or receiving any communications from this email server. The Trump Organization has no communication or relationship with this entity or any Russian entity,” Hope Hicks told Slate.
The use of email and servers was propelled to the front of the US election campaign last Friday when a letter from FBI chief James Comey to a US congress committee said the bureau would reexamine the case on the use of a private email server by Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton while she was US Secretary of State.
Clinton used the server between 2009 and 2013 rather than the official Government email server. An FBI investigation into the use of this server concluded in July when the bureau said it would not proceed but that it could revisit the case should new evidence emerge.
Last Friday’s letter said previously undiscovered emails were found on a laptop belonging to the estranged husband of one of Clinton’s aides as part of a separate investigation. The FBI is examining these to see if the emails contained any classified information.
The use of technology has become a huge issue in the US presidential campaign with both sides accusing the other of suspicious activity and demanding investigations into each other’s behaviour.
Donald Trump tweeted: “Look at the way Crooked Hillary is handling the e-mail case and the total mess she is in. She is unfit to be president. Bad judgement!”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Clinton campaign, Hillary for America Senior Policy Adviser Jake Sullivan, went on the offensive over the Russian server reports.
“This could be the most direct link yet between Donald Trump and Moscow. This secret hotline may be the key to unlocking the mystery of Trump’s ties to Russia. It certainly seems the Trump Organization felt it had something to hide, given that it apparently took steps to conceal the link when it was discovered by journalists.
“This line of communication may help explain Trump’s bizarre adoration of Vladimir Putin and endorsement of so many pro-Kremlin positions throughout this campaign. It raises even more troubling questions in light of Russia’s masterminding of hacking efforts that are clearly intended to hurt Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
“We can only assume that federal authorities will now explore this direct connection between Trump and Russia as part of their existing probe into Russia’s meddling in our elections.”
Trump has repeatedly been accused of links with the Russian state during the campaign.
The main touchstone for this is the hack, referenced by Sullivan, of the Democratic National Committee. This led to internal emails from the Democratic Party being leaked by Wikileaks.
Investigations by cyber security companies such as Threat Connect suggested that Russian domains were used by hackers, but no concrete evidence of Russian involvement has been produced.
The Kremlin strongly denied involvement, with a spokesperson calling the allegations absurd and saying that fear of Russia was being exploited for electoral purposes, in “an old trick which is being played again”.