Podesta testimony: Hillary Clinton knew in 2016 about Russia dirt digging on Trump
Former Clinton campaign chairman talks about how DNC, Clinton campaign funded research but says candidate likely didn't know the vendors
In recently unsealed testimony to Congress, former Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta acknowledged that both he and Hillary Clinton were aware that her campaign had purchase opposition research and was looking for dirt on Donald Trump's ties to Russia during the 2016 election.
Podesta's comments are the most direct acknowledgement about what Donald Trump's opponent knew in real-time about the effort that ultimately became known as the Steele dossier.
In a second appearance before the House Intelligence Committee in December 2017, Podesta testified that Clinton likely didn't know the names of the firm, Fusion GPS, and former British spy Christopher Steele who had conducted the research. But he said she and he were both cognizant of an opposition research effort to connect Trump to business dealings in Russia.
"I think she was -- she knew that we had an -- we had an opposition research staff in-house. We, the campaign, directly purchased some opposition research. And she knew I think in general terms that we were trying to figure out, which was not easy, what Mr. Trump's financial relationships were, what his relationships might be to Russia and other former Soviet Union actors that, you know. But I don't – I don't think we – I mean, she wasn't – you know, if I wasn't, she certainly wasn't sort of saying, 'Who are your vendors?' "
In fact, Podesta said he only learned after the election that the project was funded through the law firm Perkins Coie and the costs for Fusion and Steele's research were split 50-50 between the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign. Podesta said he had learned of the funding arrangement after he had already testified before the Senate intelligence committee's Russia investigation earlier in 2017.
"I think that I only learned subsequently that the payments were made through Perkins Coie, 50 percent from the campaign, 50 percent from the DNC. I didn't know that at the time I was before the Senate," he told House lawmakers.
You can read Podesta's testimony here.
Podesta's explanation is consistent to testimony that Steele, a former MI-6 operative, gave in March before a British court in which he said Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson told him that Clinton and the leadership of her campaign were aware of his research.
“You also understood that Hillary Clinton herself was aware of what you were doing?” a lawyer asked Steele.
“I think Glenn had mentioned it, but I wasn't clear,” Steele answered.
Then Steele was confronted with what lawyers said were notes he took at a meeting with the FBI in 2016 in which he purported to tell agents that Clinton was aware of his research. The lawyers read from those notes during the court proceedings.
The notes, according to the transcript, read: “We explained that Glenn Simpson/GPS Fusion was our commissioner but the ultimate client were the leadership of the Clinton presidential campaign and that we understood the candidate herself was aware of the reporting at least, if not us.”
The lawyers prodded: “It’s your note, so we assume it’s accurate?”
“Yes,” Steele answered during the March 17 testimony. You can read his testimony here.