Former top Hillary Clinton lieutenant Robby Mook did his old boss few favors in court Friday, testifying that Clinton knew the Alfa-Bank claims lacked solid evidence while also reading into evidence a Clinton tweet thought to be barred from admission into the trial.
Mook testified in a federal court in Washington, D.C., in the trial of cybersecurity attorney Michael Sussmann. Sussmann is accused of lying to a top FBI official during a September 2016 meeting in which he made false claims about a purported backchannel between the Trump Organization and Russia’s Alfa-Bank.
During the 2016 presidential election, Mook served as former Clinton’s campaign manager. Sussmann was then an attorney at Perkins Coie, which contracted with the Clinton campaign as its general counsel.
During his Friday testimony, Mook said that Clinton herself approved sharing the false claims against the Trump Organization and former President Donald Trump with the media, according to Fox News.
Mook said that at the time, the campaign knew the evidence against Trump was shaky, but campaign officials thought a reporter could investigate and potentially substantiate the claims. He said he discussed the issue at the time with Campaign Chairman John Podesta, Senior Policy Advisor Jake Sullivan, and Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri.
Mook also ran the plan by Clinton, who signed off pushing the collusion claims despite the relatively weak evidence. Mook said that he and other top campaign officials agreed not to alert the FBI to claims because of the shaky basis, however.
“I discussed it with Hillary as well,” Mook testified. “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.”
“She agreed,” he said.
The admission speaks to special counsel John Durham’s theory of the case, which posits that the false Alfa-Bank claims were pushed by the Clinton campaign in order to hurt her political opponent at the time, Trump. The theory continues that Sussmann lied to the FBI in order to spark an investigation that could make the Alfa-Bank story more palatable to the press.
At another point in his testimony, Mook also read off an October 31, 2016, tweet from Clinton’s account featuring a statement from Sullivan, was at that time her senior policy adviser. The tweet and statement was touting a story from Slate that had come out earlier that day reporting on the alleged connection between the Trump Organization and Alfa-Bank.
“Computer scientists have apparently uncovered a covert server linking the Trump Organization to a Russian-based bank,” Clinton said in the tweet. Mook testified that he did not know if Clinton drafted the tweet herself.
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 Clinton tweet was thought to be excluded from the trial. Judge Christopher Cooper had blocked the tweet from coming in as evidence in pretrial arguments between prosecutors and defense attorneys. Cooper allowed the tweet into evidence on Friday, however, after Mook read it off to the jury.
Mook testified that the Slate story bolstered the campaign’s belief in the Alfa-Bank claims because they took the publication of the story to mean its details had been vetted by a news outlet.