President Trump tweeted early Wednesday that China was behind a hack of former presidential opponent Hillary Clinton's emails, in an apparent reference to an article published by the conservative Daily Caller website.
China denied the allegation.
The article, by reporter Richard Pollack, cites two anonymous sources and says a Chinese-owned company based outside of Washington, D.C., "hacked Hillary Clinton's private server throughout her term as secretary of state and obtained nearly all her emails."
Trump had tweeted a few hours earlier in another apparent reference to the story.
According to the report, the company served as a front group for the Chinese government. Computer code embedded in Clinton's email server, located at her house in upstate New York, copied "nearly all of her emails and forwarded them to the Chinese company," the website says.
U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia was behind a campaign to influence the 2016 election and was responsible for the hacking of emails of the Democratic National Committee as well as for Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta. The subject of the Daily Caller's article is separate from that hack.
In July 2016, then-FBI Director James Comey concluded that while Clinton's use of a private server for official business had been "extremely careless," he recommended no charges against her. Despite that conclusion and Clinton's election loss, the White House and Republicans in Congress continued to call for investigating Clinton's use of a private email server from her time as secretary of state.
"The FBI spent thousands of hours investigating, and found no evidence of intrusion. That's a fact," the Daily Caller quoted Clinton spokesperson Nick Merrill as saying. "But in an age where facts are alternative and truth isn't truth, it's no surprise that an outlet like the Daily Caller would try to distract us from very real and very immediate threats to our democracy brought by the man occupying the White House."
"This isn't the first time we've heard similar kinds of allegations," Hua Chunying, China's foreign ministry spokesperson, told reporters in Beijing on Wednesday. "China is a staunch defender of cybersecurity. We firmly oppose and crack down on any forms of Internet attacks and the stealing of secrets," she added, according to Reuters.
Trump said in April 2017 that it "could have been China, could have been a lot of different groups" behind the hack of Democratic emails that has been blamed on Russia.
Since winning the 2016 election, Trump has repeatedly taken to Twitter to excoriate Clinton and call for a new probe of her emails. He has tweeted about Clinton every month since his election win, usually multiple times. This month, he has stepped up the pace of such tweets, referencing his erstwhile election opponent at least 27 times.