By Linda Qiu and Aaron Sharockman
Hillary Clinton’s former campaign chairman John Podesta said Sunday that Russia was trying to “elect a lap dog” by hacking his and Democratic National Committee emails during the 2016 election.
The CIA and FBI have confirmed that Moscow was behind the summer cyberattacks and leaked emails. While Podesta conceded that it is “unknown” if there was collusion between Donald Trump’s campaign and Moscow, he brought up several points of contact on Dec. 18’s Meet the Press.
“Russian diplomats have said post-election that they were talking to the Trump campaign,” Podesta said. “Roger Stone (a Trump adviser) in August foreshadowed the fact that they had hacked my emails and those would be forthcoming when he said he was in touch with Wikileaks. Carter Page, one of Trump’s foreign policy advisers, went to Russia before the Republican convention and met with a person in the Russian hierarchy who was responsible for collecting intelligence.”
Russian officials have said members of the Trump camp maintained contact with Russia, but there are discrepancies in their statements and a denial from the Trump campaign. And the Russians also claim to have met with representatives of the Clinton campaign.
Overall, Podesta’s claim relies on too much speculation to rate it on PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter. But here’s what we know.
In an interview with the state-run news agency, Interfax, Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei A. Ryabkov said “there were contacts” with Trump’s “entourage” throughout the election, according to multiple translations of the interview. "I cannot say that all of them, but quite a few have been staying in touch with Russian representatives."
But the Trump campaign denied that this ever happened, and the Foreign Ministry clarified to The New York Times that Ryabkov meant Russian officials had met with Trump’s political allies and supporters, not his campaign staff directly.
Ryabkov told Bloomberg that the Russian embassy held meetings with the Trump camp on a “sufficient, responsible level” as part of “routine, everyday work.” Ryabkov said the Russian embassy also had “sporadic” contact with the Clinton team, though it was “not always productive,” according to Bloomberg. An unnamed Russian official said to CNN that Clinton team members visited Moscow unofficially and held meetings with government officials.
Meanwhile Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Vladimir Putin, told the Associated Press on the same day that Russian experts on the United States and international affairs had contacts with both the Clinton and Trump camps.
Two October surprises in one hour
So many extraordinary things happened in the 2016 presidential campaign that it can be hard sometimes to remember the sequence of events.
When Podesta described the events of Oct. 7, 2016, in the same interview on Meet the Press, we had to rewind the clock.
"On Oct. 7, the Access Hollywood tape comes out. One hour later, WikiLeaks starts dropping my emails," Podesta said. "One could say that those things might not have been a coincidence."
The Access Hollywood tape Podesta referenced showed Donald Trump making lewd comments about women during a 2005 interview. "I’ve got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her," Trump tells interviewer Billy Bush. "You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. I just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything."
The tape was discovered and first published by the Washington Post's David Fahrenthold right around 4 p.m. ET on Oct. 7. Fahrenthold shared a link to his story on Twitter.
Less than an hour later, WikiLeaks revealed that it had received 50,000 of Podesta’s emails. It released 2,050 initially. It, too, shared the news via Twitter.
We obviously cannot assess if the two events were connected, as Podesta suggested, but on the timeline he’s right.
This claim rates True.
Read the full fact-checks at PolitiFact.com.