Clinton campaign chief Podesta says it's “open question” whether Trump team colluded with Russia.

Clinton Campaign Chief: It’s “Open Question” Whether Trump Team Colluded With Russia

Clinton Campaign Chief: It’s “Open Question” Whether Trump Team Colluded With Russia

The Slatest
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Dec. 18 2016 2:25 PM

Clinton Campaign Chief: It’s “Open Question” Whether Trump Team Colluded With Russia

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John Podesta announces on stage that Hillary Clinton will not speak on election night at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center November 9, 2016 in New York City.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign chairman said President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign may have worked with the Russian government on the election-season hacking offensive targeting Democrats. “It's very much unknown whether there was collusion,” John Podesta said on NBC’s Meet the Press, noting that he disagreed with a New York Times columnist who wrote that Russia wanted to elect a “lap dog” and the Republican’s campaign wasn’t working with the Kremlin.

In his first television interview since Clinton’s loss, Podesta said he doesn’t believe Trump was actually personally involved in any collusion but said Electoral College electors deserve to have all the information at their disposal. “What did Trump Inc. know and when did they know it, were they in touch with the Russians? I think those are still open questions,” Podesta said.

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Why is Podesta not so quick to dismiss suggestions of possible collusionbetween the Republican presidential campaign and Moscow? The former campaign chairman laid out the red flags:

I think Russian diplomats have said post-election that they were talking to the Trump campaign. Roger Stone in August foreshadowed the fact that they had hacked my emails, and those would be forthcoming, when he said that he was in touch with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. Carter Page, one of Trump's foreign policy advisors went to Russia before the Republican convention and met with the person in the Russian hierarchy who was responsible for collecting intelligence.

When he was asked whether the election was “free and fair,” Podesta said that “it was” but noted that “it was distorted by the Russian intervention. Let’s put it that way.”

Reince Priebus, who will be Trump’s chief of staff, called the whole notion ridiculous. “Even this question is insane,” Priebus said on Fox News Sunday when asked directly whether he denied any hacking-related contact with Russia during the campaign. “Of course, we didn't interface with the Russians. I mean, this whole thing is a spin job. And I think what the Democrats ought to do is look in the mirror and face the reality that they lost the election.”

In his interview, Podesta also gave details about his hacked emails, revealing that the FBI didn't contact him about the hack until Oct. 9, which was two days after WikiLeaks began publishing his emails. "That was the last time I talked to the FBI," Podesta said, noting he had never received an update on the investigation.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.