Robby Mook said he attended a meeting with other senior campaign officials where they learned about strange cyberactivity that suggested a relationship between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank, which is based in Moscow. The group decided to share the information with a reporter, and Mook subsequently ran that decision by Clinton herself.
“We discussed it with Hillary,” Mook said, later adding that “she agreed with the decision.”
A campaign staffer later passed the information to a reporter from Slate magazine, which the campaign hoped the reporter would “vet it out, and write what they believe is true,” Mook said.
The testimony came in the criminal trial of Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann, who is being prosecuted by the Trump-era special counsel John Durham. Durham is investigating potential misconduct tied to the FBI’s Trump-Russia probe. The trial has shed light on the dark arts of political opposition research — and how campaigns dig up dirt and plant stories in the press.
Clinton officials say they didn’t authorize FBI meeting
Mook and another top Clinton campaign official, general counsel Marc Elias, reinforced that assertion this week on the witness stand. They both testified they didn’t authorize or direct Sussmann to go to the FBI with the explosive Trump tip. Mook said Friday that he didn’t even know who Sussmann was during the 2016 campaign, and would’ve opposed an FBI meeting.
“Going to the FBI does not seem like an effective way to get information out to the public,” Mook said. “You do that through the media, which is why the information was shared with the media.”
Testimony from witnesses suggested the media outreach wasn’t closely coordinated, though the situation isn’t fully clear. Mook said he didn’t know about Perkins Coie, the law firm where Sussmann and Elias worked, “playing a role with us sharing the information with the media.”
Old Clinton tweet spurs online reaction
“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,” Sullivan said in the release on October 31, 2016, one week before Election Day.
The special counsel team has previously said that the Clinton campaign’s media blitz around the Slate story “is the very culmination of Mr. Sussmann’s work and strategy,” to allegedly gin up news coverage about the Trump-Alfa allegations and then get the FBI to start an investigation.
Sussmann’s lawyers declined to comment to CNN about Musk’s tweets.
There is no evidence to support Musk’s claim that Sussmann or the Clinton campaign peddled information they knew was untrue. Multiple witnesses testified that respected cyber experts harbored genuine national security concerns about the data. Sussmann’s lawyers repeatedly said he had no reason to doubt the accuracy of the material when he provided it to the FBI.
This story has been updated with additional details Friday.
CNN’s Hannah Rabinowitz contributed to this report.