Former President Donald Trump called the Russia probe against him “one of the greatest political scandals in history” after May 20 court testimony revealed that Hillary Clinton had given the approval to disseminate the claims linking him to a Russian bank.
“This is one of the greatest political scandals in history,” Trump told Fox News on May 21. “For three years, I had to fight her off, and fight those crooked people off, and you’ll never get your reputation fully back.
“Where do I get my reputation back?”
Trump said the resources poured into finding whether he and members of his campaign had worked with Russia to meddle with the 2016 election had diverted attention on what “could have been a real danger with Russia.”
Robby Mook, Clinton’s former campaign manager, told a federal court on May 20 that he was first briefed about the allegations of a purported secret back channel between Trump’s business and Russia’s Alfa Bank by the Clinton campaign’s top lawyer, Marc Elias.
The campaign didn’t immediately act on the allegations for fear that they weren’t credible, Mook said, noting that the campaign officials lacked the subject matter expertise to assess the claims. When the group decided to share the information with the media, he ran the decision by Clinton.
“We told her we have this, and we want to share it with a reporter. She agreed to that,” he said.
He said he couldn’t remember when Clinton gave the green light, saying that “all I can remember is she agreed with the decision. She thought we made the right decision.”
Despite not being “totally confident” in the allegations, the campaign staffer later passed the information to a reporter, who they expected would vet it.
“Our hope was they were going to run it down, that it would be substantive and accurate,” Mook said.
Slate published a story on Oct. 31, 2016, and Clinton highlighted it in a post on Twitter later that evening.
“Computer scientists have apparently uncovered a covert server linking the Trump Organization to a Russian-based bank,” she wrote.
Michael Sussmann, a former Clinton campaign attorney, had separately handed over a thumb drive and white papers supporting the Trump–Russia allegations to the FBI.
Former FBI General Counsel James Baker, a central player in the Russia investigations, said he would have acted differently if he had known Trump’s opponent was behind the claims. He said he likely wouldn’t have met with Sussmann if he had known he was acting on behalf of the Clinton campaign.
It “would have raised very serious questions, certainly, about the credibility of the source” and the “veracity of the information,” Baker, who’s now working as Twitter’s deputy general counsel, said in federal court testimony on May 19. It would also have raised “a substantial concern in my mind about whether we were going to be played.”
Sussmann has been accused of lying to the FBI by telling Baker he wasn’t working for any client when he presented the allegations to the agency. Both Elias and Mook said Sussmann acted without obtaining the campaign’s prior permission.
Asked if Clinton had approved Sussmann’s meeting with the FBI, Mook replied that he was “not aware.”
“I don’t know why” she would do so, he said when questioned a second time.