Former Clinton campaign staffers on Trump's Russia scandal: We told you so!


As the scandal unravels over the Trump campaign's communications with Russia during the election, the mood among former Hillary Clinton campaign officials is, well, exactly what you might expect.

"I knew at some point this was going to catch up to Trump," said former Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri. "It's painful to watch.”

Palmieri and a handful of other former Clinton campaign staffers — including former campaign manager Robby Mook, deputy national press secretary Jesse Ferguson, director of talent acquisition and development Nathaniel Koloc and two other staffers who spoke to Mic on condition of anonymity — described the mood since Trump's connections to Russia were revealed. 

The staffers were careful not to give off the impression they were reveling in a national disaster or that they were being sore losers, but it was difficult to contain a certain amount of schadenfreude. Several said an "I told you so” attitude currently prevails among former campaign staff, who also expressed resentment that their candidate warned Americans about President Donald Trump's connections to Russia, to no avail.

"We told you so!" Koloc said. "We were not playing politics with our attempts to point to evidence that there was shady stuff going on between Trump and Russia. I am literally not surprised by any of this so far."

Cliff Owen/AP

According to a bombshell New York Times report published Tuesday, multiple Trump campaign aides — including Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort — had contact with Russian intelligence agents in the year before the election. The National Security Agency captured phone calls between Trump's staff and Russian operatives, which promoted the FBI to investigate. Thus far, no evidence has emerged that the president himself knew of these communications.

The story comes on the heels of national security adviser Michael Flynn's resignation. Flynn stepped down after the Washington Post reported last week that he misled Vice President Mike Pence about his meeting with the Russian ambassador about lifting U.S. sanctions.

Clinton campaign manager Mook called for a full investigation into the incident, saying, "Anyone who gave aid, support or comfort to the Russians must be held accountable for treason."

Andrew Harnik/AP

But Mook and other former Clinton staffers believe revelations about Trump's Russia ties are only just starting to come to light.

"This goes much deeper and much broader than Gen. Flynn," said one former Clinton official who spoke to Mic on the condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak for the campaign. "The giant question to be answered is whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians."

"The whole situation is dripping with hypocrisy."

Former staffers expressed an overwhelming sense of frustration with the press and the FBI. Campaign officials are still not happy that the media spent what they felt was an inordinate amount of time reporting on Clinton's emails or Trump's tweets, and that only now are the Trump campaign's connections to Russia coming to light.

"I'm frustrated the press didn't take this more seriously during the campaign," Palmieri said.

Anger runs even deeper against FBI Director James Comey, who failed to disclose during the campaign that the bureau was investigating Trump's Russian connections but announced, 11 days before the vote, that the FBI was reopening its investigation into Clinton's emails. Many pollsters, including FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver, maintain that Clinton would have almost certainly won were it not for Comey's disclosure.

"The whole situation is dripping with hypocrisy," said Ferguson, Clinton's former deputy national press secretary.

A senior adviser speaking anonymously because he wasn't authorized to speak for the campaign noted:

On an emotional level, people feel there's a peculiar double standard at the FBI. It is hard to understand why the discovery of a laptop pre-search warrant merited a letter, whereas what seems to have been an ongoing and explosive investigation was not deemed to be something that would have an effect on the election and did not merit a letter.

Moving forward, the Clinton world is clear-eyed about what they believe needs to happen: Staffers were unanimous in calling for a full investigation to determine the full extent of Trump's Russian connections.

"I never want another campaign manager to be wondering months after the election if things might have been different if a foreign intervention had been exposed or stopped before Election Day," Mook said.

Mook and others underscored the importance of having such an investigation conducted by an independent commission, outside of Congress. They do not trust the Republican-controlled House and Senate to be objective in the matter. 

"Republican leadership can't credibly do an investigation here," Palmieri said. "These people are not observers, they are actors."