Hillary Clinton personally approved leaking to the media information alleging a connection between Donald Trump and a Russian bank in 2016, which the campaign itself had not fully confirmed, according to testimony Friday by Clinton’s campaign manager.
Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign chief, said in federal court that as the campaign against Trump heated up in the late summer and early fall of 2016, Marc Elias, who was then a lawyer with the Perkins Coie law firm and served as the campaign’s top legal adviser, told Mook that “people with expertise” in cyberactivity had briefed the campaign on data alleging links between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank, a Russian financial institution with ties to the Kremlin.
Mook’s testimony for the first time puts Clinton in the middle of a leak to the news media that ultimately blew up in the campaign’s face. The FBI quickly determined that the purported connection between the Russian bank and the Trump Organization was implausible, and Michael Sussmann, Elias’s then law partner who brought the claims to the FBI, has since been indicted by Justice Department special counsel John Durham on charges he lied to the bureau’s general counsel to hide his connection to the Clinton campaign.
The account from Mook came on the fourth day of the trial of Sussmann, a cyber and national security law expert who worked at Perkins Coie in 2016. The closely watched case is widely seen as a major test for Durham, the longtime U.S. attorney in Connecticut who had been initially appointed by Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, to investigate alleged wrongdoing by the FBI and other federal agencies in the course of their investigation into alleged Trump-Russia ties.