Former Clinton 2016 campaign manager Robby Mook testified Friday that then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton approved of a plan to disseminate to the media the unsubstantiated claim that the Trump Organization had covert ties to a Russian bank.
The purpose apparently was to create an “October surprise” that Republican nominee Donald Trump had inappropriate connections with Russia and therefore could not be trusted as president.
Mook was called to testify in the case of former Perkins Coie attorney Michael Sussmann, who is accused of failing to reveal to the FBI that he was working for the Clinton campaign when he passed on information supposedly tying the Trump Organization to the Kremlin-linked Alfa Bank, Fox News reported.
Former FBI General Counsel James Baker testified Thursday that the bureau investigated the data Sussmann provided and found that “there was nothing there,” according to the news outlet.
Mook said Friday in court that the Clinton campaign was not totally confident in the data, but wanted to give it to a reporter who the campaign hoped would be able to “run it down” and determine if the information was accurate.
He said he discussed the matter with campaign chairman John Podesta; senior policy adviser Jake Sullivan, who is now President Joe Biden’s national security advisor; and communications director Jennifer Palmieri before handing the information off.
“I discussed it with Hillary as well,” Mook said.
“I don’t remember the substance of the conversation, but notionally, the discussion was, hey, we have this and we want to share it with a reporter,” he added.
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A prosecutor then asked if Clinton approved of the plan, and Mook responded that “she agreed.”
Mook later said he couldn’t “recall the exact sequence of events” regarding whether he shared the idea with her before or after the decision was made to pass on the Trump-Alfa Bank allegations to the media, according to Fox News.
“All I remember is that she agreed with the decision,” he testified.
🚨 BREAKING NEWS 🚨
Former Clinton campaign manager testifies that Hillary Clinton personally approved providing one of the Trump-Russia stories (Alfa Bank) to the press. pic.twitter.com/xZCoBw69PF
— Kayleigh McEnany (@kayleighmcenany) May 20, 2022
Last fall, Sussmann was indicted as part of special counsel John Durham’s investigation for allegedly making false statements to the FBI in September 2016, two months before the presidential election.
The attorney said he was not doing work “for any client” when he asked for a meeting with the bureau regarding the Alfa Bank allegations.
Durham’s team alleges Sussmann was working for the Clinton campaign at the time and in fact billed her campaign for the work.
Sussmann was a partner at Perkins Coie during the 2016 presidential race but resigned in September 2021 after the Department of Justice’s indictment.
Clinton herself promoted the idea that the Trump Organization had illicit ties to Russia in an Oct. 31, 2016, tweet, just days before the election.
“Computer scientists have apparently uncovered a covert server linking the Trump Organization to a Russian-based bank,” she wrote.
Computer scientists have apparently uncovered a covert server linking the Trump Organization to a Russian-based bank. pic.twitter.com/8f8n9xMzUU
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) November 1, 2016
The tweet also included a statement from Sullivan.
“This could be the most direct link yet between Donald Trump and Moscow. Computer scientists have uncovered a covert server linking the Trump Organization to a Russian-based bank,” he said.
“This secret hotline may be the key to unlocking the mystery of Trump’s ties to Russia,” Sullivan continued. “It certainly seems the Trump Organization felt it had something to hide, given that it apparently took steps to conceal the link when it was discovered by journalists.”
The then-campaign adviser concluded, “We can only assume federal authorities will now explore this direct connection between Trump and Russia as part of their existing probe into Russia’s meddling in our elections.”
Baker testified Thursday that the FBI did launch an investigation into the Trump-Alfa Bank allegations, which lasted “several weeks, maybe a month, maybe a month and a half.”
#Durham “[Sussmann] said, ‘I’m not here on behalf of any particular client,” Baker recalled, in testifying about Sussmann’s statement to him at that 2016 meeting at FBI headquarters. “I’m 100% confident that he said that in the meeting.” Via @RobLegare https://t.co/ZXkxwLZSsT
— Catherine Herridge (@CBS_Herridge) May 20, 2022
“We concluded there was no substance,” he said. “We couldn’t confirm it. We could not confirm there was a surreptitious communications channel.”
Baker added: “There was nothing there.”
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team would also later determine the Trump campaign did not collude with Russia during the 2016 presidential election.