Hillary Clinton on Thursday night attributed her defeat to a convergence of two “unprecedented” events: the release of a letter by James B. Comey, the FBI director, 10 days before the election, and what she called an “attack against our country” by the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.
Clinton has kept a low profile in the weeks since her defeat, mostly appearing on social media in photographs by passers-by who have spotted her walking her dogs near her home in Chappaqua, New York.
A few days after the election, she did talk about the impact of Comey’s letter in a conference call with supporters. But speaking in Manhattan on Thursday to a group of her campaign donors, many of whom are still despondent over her defeat, she was particularly pointed about the role of Russia.
Clinton said the letter Comey released disclosing new questions about emails handled by her private server had cost her close races in several battleground states. “Swing-state voters made their decisions in the final days, breaking against me because of the FBI letter from Director Comey,” she said.
The Russians, she said, sought to “undermine our democracy” through cyberattacks on Democratic targets. She said the hacking into the Democratic National Committee and into the emails of her campaign chairman, John D. Podesta, were a result of Putin’s “personal beef” against her, pointing to her accusation that Russia’s 2011 parliamentary elections were rigged.
“Putin publicly blamed me for the outpouring of outrage by his own people, and that is the direct line between what he said back then and what he did in this election,” Clinton said. They were her first public remarks since widespread reports that the Russian government was behind the cyberattacks on the DNC and Podesta, with the goal of influencing the election.
“Make no mistake, as the press is finally catching up to the facts, which we desperately tried to present to them during the last months of the campaign,” Clinton told the group, which collectively poured roughly $1 billion into her effort. “This is not just an attack on me and my campaign, although that may have added fuel to it. This is an attack against our country. We are well beyond normal political concerns here. This is about the integrity of our democracy and the security of our nation.”