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 later made that decision by Clinton herself.
“We discussed it with Hillary,” Mook said, later adding that “she was fine with the decision.”
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.
Clinton officials say they did not authorize FBI meeting
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 has 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 has not been 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.”
CNN’s Hannah Rabinowitz contributed to this report.