Published December 18, 2016
John Podesta, chairman of Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential campaign, suggested Sunday that Russian President Vladimir Putin was indeed “personally involved” in the election email hacks because Russia wanted Donald Trump as its “lap dog” in the White House.
“Russia clearly intervened,” Podesta said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” in a series of carefully worded responses about who was behind the hacked emails and their impact on Clinton’s losing campaign.
Podesta's "lap dog" comment was an apparent reference to New York Times op-ed columist Nicholas Kristof implying Saturday in the paper that Trump would be a "lap dog -- a Russian poodle."
Podesta, whose personal email account was hacked, also said Sunday that he has been contacted by the FBI only once about the ordeal, two days after WikiLeaks began publishing on Oct. 7 the trove of electronic messages.
He said that “NBC revealed that Putin was personally involved” and that the "CIA, FBI and (Director of National Intelligence James Clapper) all agree that the Russians did it to help Trump.”
Podesta declined to say whether he thinks Trump, the Republican president-elect, or his team were directly involved in the hacking, saying Sunday that the issue remains an “open question.”
In an op-ed last week in The Washington Post, he argued the FBI more thoroughly investigated Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state, compared to the email hacking, which started this past July with the Democratic National Committee.
Podesta wrote “something is deeply broken at the FBI” and that the email hacking purportedly by the Russians was the “political equivalent” of the 9/11 terror attacks.
Also on Sunday, Donna Brazile, the DNC’s interim chairman, called for an “independent, bipartisan investigation of the attacks” that would include public hearings.
In her request, Brazile called herself “one of the main victims of the Russian attacks.”
Brazile’s emails were indeed hacked and showed that she, as a paid CNN contributor, gave the Clinton campaign questions ahead of a Democratic primary debate and a town hall-style event hosted by the cable network.
She resigned in the aftermath of the revelations, but the incident added to Trump supporters’ beliefs about the mainstream media appearing to back Clinton.
While Clinton campaign staffers have suggested that Russia and FBI Director James Comey -- particularly his re-opening of the email server issue -- largely influenced the White House race, Podesta said Sunday the Clinton team was “responsible for the loss.”
He acknowledged that Clinton during the general election should have visited Wisconsin, which until this year no Democratic presidential nominee had lost since 1984.
Still, he argued that Clinton’s campaign had a larger grassroots effort than Trump’s in Wisconsin and that Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Tim Kaine frequently visited the state.
On also losing Democratic-leaning Pennsylvania, he said, “At the end of the day, there’s nothing more we could have done.”