Hillary Clinton personally authorized her campaign to share since-debunked computer data linking Donald Trump with a Russian bank, according to bombshell testimony from her 2016 campaign manager Friday.
Robby Mook, testifying as a witness in defense of former Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann, told jurors that he discussed the matter with the Democratic nominee shortly before the that year’s presidential election.
Mook described his end of the conversation with Clinton as him telling her, “Hey, we have this and we want to share it with a reporter.”
“She agreed to that,” he said.
The stunning disclosures are the first evidence showing Clinton was aware of allegations of a purported secret back channel between a Trump Organization server and Russia’s Alfa Bank — before the theory emerged publicly eight days before the election.
Mook also acknowledged that the campaign hadn’t verified the accuracy of the data at the time.
“Part of the point of giving it to a reporter was they could run it down further,” he said.
“A reporter could vet the information and then decide to print it.”
Mook testified that he was first told about information purportedly showing a secret back channel between a Trump Organization server and Russia’s Alfa Bank by campaign general counsel Marc Elias. Mook added that he didn’t recall where the data came from.
The campaign manager also said he discussed the matter with top aides John Podesta, Jake Sullivan and Jennifer Palmeri, apparently before going to Clinton.
Special counsel John Durham has alleged that Sussmann, the Clinton campaign and former tech executive Rodney Joffe took part in a “joint venture” to gather and spread the Alfa Bank data to smear Trump.
But in a pretrial ruling earlier this month, Washington, DC, federal Judge Christopher Cooper limited the amount of evidence Durham can present “with respect to an uncharged and unlawful joint venture,” saying it could “confuse the jury and distract from the issues at hand.”
Sussmann, 57, is on trial on a single charge of lying to the FBI in September 2016 by denying that he was working on behalf of the campaign and Joffe when he turned over data and three “white papers” pitching the Trump-Alfa Bank claims to the bureau’s then-general counsel.
Mook’s testimony came during cross-examination by a member of special counsel Durham’s team and prompted Cooper to order the jury out of the courtroom so he could hold a sidebar discussion with both sides.
After the sidebar, Cooper announced that he might allow prosecutor Andrew DeFilippis to introduce into evidence a tweet posted by Clinton on Oct. 31, 2016, shortly after the left-wing Slate website published a report about the Alfa-Bank data.
“Computer scientists have apparently uncovered a covert server linking the Trump Organization to a Russian-based bank,” Clinton wrote.
She also attached a statement from Sullivan — now President Biden’s national security adviser — who said, “This secret hotline may be the key to unlocking the mystery of Trump’s ties to Russia.”
“Computer scientists have apparently uncovered a covert server linking the Trump Organization to a Russian-based bank,” wrote Clinton, who attached a statement from Jake Sullivan — now President Biden’s national security adviser — who said, “This secret hotline may be the key to unlocking the mystery of Trump’s ties to Russia.”
Last month, Cooper ruled that the tweet was inadmissible “hearsay” evidence and “likely duplicative of other evidence” that Durham would use against Sussmann.
But in the wake of Mook’s testimony, the judge said he’d reconsider that decision if the prosecution established a proper foundation to introduce the tweet.
When Mook resumed testifying, he tried to walk back his earlier remarks about Clinton, saying he wasn’t sure if they spoke before or after the information was shared.
“All I remember is that she agreed with the decision,” he said. “I can’t recall the exact sequence of events.”
A short time later, Cooper allowed the prosecution to introduce Clinton’s tweet, except for the last sentence of Sullivan’s statement, which read: “We can only assume that 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.”
At the time, the FBI already had the Alfa Bank data, which was quickly dismissed by the agent who initially examined it, according to the G-man’s own testimony Tuesday.
But Cooper said the jury hadn’t yet been presented with evidence the Clinton campaign knew Sussmann gave the material to the feds, and he ruled Sullivan’s assertion would “unfairly suggest to the jury that that was the case.”
Mook said he didn’t know the identity of the reporter who received the Alfa Bank data but assumed it was Franklin Foer, who wrote the Slate article.
On Wednesday, Laura Seago, a former analyst at the Fusion GPS firm — which commissioned the infamous “Steele dossier” of scurrilous allegations against Trump — testified that she was tasked with “translating” the information so it could be understood by “a lay audience.”
Seago recalled that she, Fusion co-founder Peter Fritsch and another Fusion worker went to Foer’s house to pitch the data, telling him it had been vetted by “highly credible computer scientists” who “seemed to think these allegations were credible.”
Reporting from the New York Post.