The Trump administration is not exactly known for its critical thinking skills.
Not surprising, then, that a number of Trump administration officials—including dearly departed communications director Anthony Scaramucci, Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert and ambassador to Russia-designate Jon Huntsman—were taken in by an email prank from British Twitter user @SINON_REBORN.
CNN reported that the British prankster, who describes himself on Twitter as a “lazy anarchist", posed as various other administration staff or members of Trump’s family. Here’s what the prankster wrote to Bossert while posing as Trump’s son-in-law and boy wonder, Jared Kushner:
Tom, we are arranging a bit of a soirée towards the end of August. It would be great if you could make it, I promise food of at least comparible [sic] quality to that which we ate in Iraq. Should be a great evening.
Bossert wrote back:
Thanks, Jared. With a promise like that, I can’t refuse. Also, if you ever need it, my personal email is [redacted].
Scaramucci, who was ousted this week after his very public feud with former Chief of Staff Reince Preibus led to Priebus being kicked out too, fell for the prank as well ... this time with @SINON_REBORN posing as Priebus.
In his guise as “Priebus,” he seemed to successfully goad Scaramucci into getting very angry online. It’s unclear whether the email messages contributed to the feud, according to CNN.
Here’s what the fake Priebus wrote:
I had promised myself I would leave my hands mud free, but after reading your tweet today which stated how; "soon we will learn who in the media who has class, and who hasn’t", has pushed me to this. That tweet was breathtakingly hypocritical, even for you. At no stage have you acted in a way that’s even remotely classy, yet you believe that’s the standard by which everyone should behave towards you? General Kelly will do a fine job. I’ll even admit he will do a better job than me. But the way in which that transition has come about has been diabolical. And hurtful. I don’t expect a reply.
Scaramucci replied, with his typical braggadocio:
You know what you did. We all do. Even today. But rest assured we were prepared. A Man would apologize.
The prankster shot back:
I can’t believe you are questioning my ethics! The so called "Mooch", who can’t even manage his first week in the White House without leaving upset in his wake. I have nothing to apologize for.
Read Shakespeare. Particularly Othello. You are right there. My family is fine by the way and will thrive. I know what you did. No more replies from me.
In a follow-up message @SINON_REBORN tweeted but which was not included in the CNN report, the fake Priebus taunted Scaramucci about his “zero dollar pay scale,” adding, “Keep spell checking your press releases, Anthony. It’s me that will be thriving.”
Though Scaramucci did not reply to the final message, it’s unclear whether that was because he had realised “Priebus” was a fake, or whether he was just getting angrier.
But “the Mooch” fell for the prank not just once, but twice, as the prankster also pretended to be Huntsman. The troll sent Scaramucci an email saying:
Who’s [sic] head should roll first? Maybe I can help things along somewhat.
Scaramucci replied, “both of them,” almost certainly referring to Priebus and Trump’s resident angry bigot, Chief Strategist Steve Bannon. After a bit of @SINON_REBORN’s flattery, Scaramucci, who surely should have been at least partially aware of the Russian ambassador-designate’s location, replied, “Are you in Moscow now? If not please visit.”
The prankster also posed as Trump’s son Eric in emails to Huntsman. In response to an unspecified note from the fake Eric, the real Huntsman wrote:
Thanks for the thoughtful note. Russia will be a challenging but no doubt rewarding assignment.
The fake Eric shot back:
Maybe we could have Dad sat (sic) on a horse, top off, giving the full Putin! He’s in better shape than his suits suggest.
Amazingly, the real Eric Trump was the smartest person in the room. He quickly caught on to the hoax, telling @SINON_REBORN, “I have sent this to law enforcement who will handle from here.”
According to CNN, none of the officials involved clicked any email links, nor was the prankster motivated by anything more than “mischief". But had any of them done so, said link could have easily led to any number of malicious outcomes, like a compromised email account or malware being dumped on their smartphones or computers.
The lesson here is that phishing scams can hit just about everyone. Even officials in the Trump administration are mere humans like ourselves—albeit humans who should probably not be trusted with any kind of serious responsibilities. [CNN]