Campaign not fully confident in allegations hoped press would verify
Hillary Clinton personally approved a plan to give information to the press about an uncorroborated link between Donald Trump and a Russian bank during the 2016 campaign, her former campaign manager testified.
Robby Mook said on Friday in federal court that he attended a meeting of senior campaign officials in the fall of 2016 at which the suggested relationship between the Trump Organization and Russia’s Alfa Bank was discussed.
Mr Mook said he ran the decision to share the information with a reporter by the former secretary of state and then Democrat presidential candidate and “she thought we made the right decision”.
“We discussed it with Hillary,” Mr Mook told the court, adding: “she agreed with the decision”.
A reporter from Slate was given the information and Mr Mook said they hoped they would “run it down further” and verify whether the connection might be true as the campaign was not fully confident in the allegations, CBS News reports.
Mr Mook is testifying in the criminal trial of Michael Sussmann, the Clinton campaign lawyer being prosecuted by special counsel John Durham.
Mr Durham, a Trump appointee, is investigating potential misconduct connected with the FBI’s probe into any links between Donald Trump and Russia.
Slate published a story that said Alfa Bank had a server that was “irregularly pinging” a Trump Organization server days before the 2016 election.
Ms Clinton tweeted about the claim and posted a campaign news release saying: “This secret hotline may be the key to unlocking the mystery of Trump’s ties to Russia.”
Mr Sussmann gave the same information regarding Trump and Alfa Bank to the FBI in September 2016. He is on trial for allegedly lying to the FBI that he was not acting on behalf of a client, even though he was there representing Ms Clinton and her campaign.
Pleading not guilty, Mr Sussman says he went to the FBI as a concerned citizen and the campaign would not have wanted him to meet with the bureau.
Mr Mook and Marc Elias, the campaign’s general counsel, both testified to this assertion this week, with the former going as far to say he didn’t know who Mr Sussman was at the time and would’ve opposed any meeting with the FBI.
He added that the meeting with the FBI did not appear to be an effective way of making information public, which is why it was shared with a media outlet.
The FBI investigated the claim about the server, and a subsequent report by the Justice Department inspector general concluded that there were no links between Trump and the bank.
The Sussmann criminal trial is the first to stem from the Durham investigation.