Hillary Clinton personally endorsed plans to share Trump-Russia allegation with the press in 2016, campaign manager says


Hillary Clinton personally approved her campaign’s plans in the fall of 2016 to share information with a reporter about an alleged unsubstantiated server backchannel between Donald Trump and a major Russian bank, her former campaign manager said in court on Friday. federal.

Robby Mook said he attended a meeting with other senior campaign officials where they learned of strange cyber activity suggesting a relationship between the Trump Organization and Moscow-based Alfa Bank. The group decided to share the information with a reporter, and Mook then made that decision by Clinton herself.

“We discussed it with Hillary,” Mook said, later adding that “she was okay with the decision.”

A campaign staffer then passed the information on to a reporter from Slate magazine, which the campaign hoped the reporter would “check and write what he thinks is true,” Mook said.

Slate published an article on October 31, 2016, raising questions about the strange Trump-Alfa cyber ties. After the publication of this story, Clinton tweeted about itand issued a press release saying, “This secret hotline could be the key to unraveling the mystery of Trump’s ties to Russia.

The testimony came during the criminal trial of Clinton campaign attorney Michael Sussmann, who is being prosecuted by Trump-era special counsel John Durham. Durham is investigating potential misconduct related to the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation. The lawsuit shed light on the dark arts of political opposition research – and how campaigns unearth stories of soil and plants in the press.

Federal investigators ultimately concluded that there were no inappropriate Trump-Alfa cyberlinks.

Sussmann passed the same information about Trump and Alfa Bank to an FBI official in September 2016. Prosecutors accused him of lying to the FBI and alleged that he falsely told the FBI official that he didn’t wasn’t there for a client, even though he was there on Clinton’s behalf.

He pleaded not guilty and maintains that he went “to help the FBI” as a concerned citizen, and that the Clinton campaign would not have wanted him to meet the FBI in the first place.

Mook and another senior Clinton campaign official, General Counsel Marc Elias, reinforced that claim this week on the witness stand. They both testified that they did not authorize or order Sussmann to go to the FBI with Trump’s explosive pipe. Mook said Friday he didn’t even know who Sussmann was during the 2016 campaign and would have opposed an FBI meeting.

“Going to the FBI doesn’t seem like an effective way to get information out to the public,” Mook said. “You do this through the media, that’s why the information was shared with the media.”

Earlier in the week, Elias told the jury that he did not authorize Sussmann’s meeting with the FBI, which took place on September 19, 2016. Elias said he had not heard of the fateful meeting between Sussmann and FBI General Counsel James Baker. until Sussmann is charged.

In addition to going to the FBI, Sussmann provided the technical Internet data to a New York Times reporter, who was working on a story that the FBI enriched after hearing about it from Sussmann. A staffer at Fusion GPS, an opposition research firm hired by the Clinton campaign, testified that she met with a reporter from Slate to discuss the Trump-Alfa allegations.

Witness accounts suggest that media outreach was not closely coordinated, although the situation is not entirely clear. Mook said he didn’t know Perkins Coie, the law firm where Sussmann and Elias worked, “playing a role with us in sharing information with the media.”

Inside the courtroom, prosecutors showed the jury Clinton’s tweet about Slate’s Trump-Alfa article, and Mook read aloud parts of it. campaign press release about the story. The statement came from Jake Sullivan, who is currently President Joe Biden’s national security adviser.

“We can only assume that federal authorities will now explore this direct link between Trump and Russia as part of their existing investigation into Russian interference in our elections,” Sullivan said in the October 31, 2016 statement. , one week before polling day.

The special advocates team previously said the Clinton campaign’s media blitz around the Slate story “is the culmination of Mr. Sussmann’s work and strategy,” to allegedly expand media coverage of the allegations. Trump-Alfa, then get the FBI started. investigation.

During the hearing, Twitter users recirculated Clinton’s old post. He caught the eye of billionaire Elon Musk, who has become increasingly vocal on political issues as he tried to buy Twitter, and recently announced his support for the Republican Party. He called the Trump-Alfa allegation “a Clinton campaign hoax” and claims that Sussmann “created an elaborate hoax”.

Sussmann’s attorneys declined to comment to CNN on Musk’s tweets.

There is no evidence to support Musk’s claim that Sussmann or the Clinton campaign peddled information they knew was false. Several witnesses said respected cyber experts have genuine national security concerns about the data. Sussmann’s attorneys have repeatedly said he had no reason to doubt the accuracy of the information when he provided it to the FBI.

This story was updated with additional details on Friday.

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