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The first question posed to Reince Priebus on the Jan. 8, 2017 edition of CBS’ "Face the Nation" was on what President-elect Donald Trump believes about Russian efforts to meddle in the presidential election.
Priebus, the Wisconsinite who is chairman of the Republican National Committee and Trump’s pick for White House chief of staff, responded with a catchy claim.
"The reason this particular hack was so large wasn’t necessarily because the effort was so great by the Russians. It was that it was so easy," he said. "I mean, John Podesta’s password into his system -- do you know what his password was? Password."
Priebus didn’t offer any evidence to host John Dickerson and we didn’t hear back from Trump’s transition team or the Republican National Committee on our requests for information to back Priebus’ claim.
But there doesn’t appear to be any evidence to support what he said.
Here’s how the New York Times reported on what happened to Podesta:
Russian hackers sent a "phishing" email -- which aims to get the recipient to click on a deceptive link that gives hackers access to their information -- to Podesta’s personal Google mail account in March 2016. The email said Podesta needed to change his password immediately in order to protect his account.
Podesta correctly perceived that the email might be a hoax and sought advice from other campaign staffers. In a response, one campaign staffer meant to tell Podesta that the email was illegitimate, but wrote legitimate -- prompting Podesta to change his password.
"With another click," as the Times put it, "a decade of emails that Mr. Podesta maintained in his Gmail account — a total of about 60,000 — were unlocked for the Russian hackers."
The trove amounted to what The Guardian called "an unprecedented window into a presidential run." Trump used the emails as fodder for attacks on Clinton -- a number of which PolitiFact National found to need context or misinterpreted what the emails actually showed.
Podesta would later say that WikiLeaks began publishing his emails about an hour after the October 2016 release of an "Access Hollywood" tape that showed Trump making lewd comments about women during a 2005 interview. His claim was rated True by PolitiFact National.
Now back to Priebus.
Two days before the Priebus interview, our partners at PunditFact rated as False a claim by Jesse Watters. He has a "Watters World" a segment that appears on Fox News Channel’s "The O’Reilly Factor," which is hosted by conservative talk show host Bill O’Reilly.
Watters’ claim was essentially the same as Priebus'. He said Podesta’s email password was password, a claim that originated with WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange.
Our colleagues found:
→ None of the emails published on WikiLeaks show Podesta’s email password.
→ Among the cyber analysts examining the phishing emails used to infiltrate Podesta’s and others’ accounts, none have made similar claims.
→ Podesta was using a Gmail account, and Google doesn’t allow users to make their passwords password.
Repeating a claim that originated with WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange, Priebus said the email password of Podesta, Clinton’s presidential campaign chairman, was password.
His claim is catchy, but we’ve seen no material evidence to back it.
Our rating is False.
CBS News, "Face the Nation" Reince Priebus interview (2:00), Jan. 8, 2017
PunditFact, "Claim that John Podesta's email password was 'password' lacks evidence," Jan. 6, 2017
PolitiFact National, "It's True: WikiLeaks dumped Podesta emails hour after Trump video surfaced," Dec. 18, 2016
PolitiFact National, "10 misleading Trump attack lines from the WikiLeaks email dump," Oct. 17, 2016
Vox, "How John Podesta’s email got hacked, and how to not let it happen to you," Oct. 28, 2016
New York Times, "The Perfect Weapon: How Russian Cyberpower Invaded the U.S.," Dec. 13, 2016
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