A former television news editor for Russian state media outlet Rossiya says that the Kremlin used to call and give instructions about how to cover Hillary Clinton during the 2016 U.S. election.
“Sometimes it was a phone call. Sometimes it was a conversation,” Dimitri Skorobutov told The New Yorker Thursday. “If Donald Trump has a successful press conference, we broadcast it for sure. And if something goes wrong with Clinton, we underline it.”
“Me and my colleagues, we were given a clear instruction: to show Donald Trump in a positive way, and his opponent, Hillary Clinton, in a negative way,” Skorobutov said at a recent speech at a journalism conference in Maastricht in the Netherlands.
Skorobutov, who was an editor on the Vesti daily news program, brought documents to the conference that he said were coverage planning outlines showing how the Kremlin wanted the election reported. In one guide from August 9, 2016, he showed that Moscow wanted to play up a story that right-wing American media had seized on that day about a six-months-old photo of Clinton stumbling while climbing some steps as she campaigned in South Carolina.
Skorobutov became a whistleblower after being fired from his job at the network following a physical altercation with one of his colleagues. He went public with his story in June in an interview with Radio Liberty, a U.S. government-backed broadcaster.
Early this year, American intelligence agencies found that Russia launched a campaign to interfere in the 2016 election. Investigations in Congress have revealed that Russia used fake social media accounts to sow political division among Americans online.
Back in Russia, Skorobutov said, the political elite were touting the slogan that “Trump is our president” and heavily promoting him in their broadcasts.
Trump himself spoke about mending ties with Russia during the campaign. According to a Russian lawyer who spoke with Donald Trump Jr. during a meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016, the candidate’s son said the administration would be open to reviewing sanctions on Russia that had frozen the assets of wealthy oligarchs.
After Trump’s inauguration in January, his administration immediately moved to lift sanctions against Russia, but was blocked by Congress. “Russian authorities failed with their hopes that financial and media support will make Trump really Russian,” Skorobutov said. “They were wrong as they didn’t take into consideration the U.S. political system and mentality. Russian authorities hoped—literally—to buy Donald Trump, using bribes and tricks. But they failed.”
Special counsel Robert Mueller is currently investigating whether the Trump campaign worked with Russia to interfere in the election.
More from Newsweek