The Russian government was reportedly communicating with U.S. Treasury Department officials using a Gmail backchannel as it pushed for financial information on its “enemies in America and across the globe,” including individuals supposedly connected to Hillary Clinton. According to BuzzFeed News, individuals from the Office of Terrorism Financing and Financial Crimes began communicating with Russia’s financial crimes agency during Obama’s final year in office. In 2016, the Russians reportedly requested “sensitive documents on Dirk, Edward, and Daniel Ziff”—billionaires who were not on good terms with the Kremlin and had supposed ties to Clinton. At the time, officials within the Terrorism Financing unit were “communicating with Hotmail and Gmail accounts set up by the Russians, rather than using the standard secure channels,” BuzzFeed reports. The requests for the documents reportedly came weeks before a Russian lawyer met with Trump campaign officials at Trump Tower and offered “dirt” on Clinton, including her connection to the Ziffs.
Russia also reportedly requested documents on executives from the Anti-Defamation League, National Council of Jewish Women, and other individuals living in London and Kiev. Analysts within the agency reportedly warned supervisors about the Russian Gmail exchanges and the “fishing expeditions” twice in 2016. However, staff reportedly continued to use the same backchannel in 2017.