Hillary Clinton on Wednesday broadly spread around the blame for her loss in last year’s presidential election, pointing to suspected Russian cyberattacks, the Democratic National Committee’s data operation, and a “very broad assumption that I was going to win.”
Clinton, interviewed onstage in California at a tech conference by Recode’s Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg, made a point to say that she took responsibility for her campaign and “every choice” she made, as she has in other public appearances this year. “But,” she said, “that’s not why I lost.”
Clinton again argued that the letter former FBI Director James Comey sent to Congress about her private email server just more than a week before the election was what prompted her to lose critical ground at the end.
Comey wasn’t the only target of Clinton’s ire on Wednesday, though, as she assailed the news media for its coverage of the Comey controversy (reporters covered it like it was “Pearl Harbor,” she charged) and the campaign more broadly, citing a lack of substantive policy reporting on television.
The attitude toward her campaign, she posited, was a result of the assumption that she would defeat Donald Trump, and she said it hurt her.
“I was the victim of a very broad assumption that I was going to win,” she said.
Clinton hit at the Democratic National Committee, too: The DNC, she claimed, handed her an inferior data operation when she won the party’s nomination last summer, while the Republicans had invested heavily in data infrastructure between 2012 and 2016.
On the topic of Russian interference in the election, Clinton described the hacks into the DNC and her campaign chairman’s private email account and various “fake news” websites as the country “weaponizing” technology in an unprecedented misinformation campaign against her.
And while she did not explicitly accuse Trump’s campaign of colluding with the Russians on the cyberattacks — a topic of ongoing federal investigation and something the White House has repeatedly denied — Clinton said she believes that the Kremlin had help from Americans in some form.
“The Russians, in my opinion … could not have known how best to weaponize that information unless they have been guided … by Americans,” Clinton said.
“I think it’s fair to ask, how did that actually influence the campaign, and how did they know what messages to deliver?” she said. “Who told them? Who were they coordinating with, and colluding with?”
She made a joke about Trump’s much-scrutinized relationship with Russia later on during the interview, when the topic of the president’s highly-publicized tweet of the non-word “covfefe” came up. She thought it was a “message to the Russians,” she said to laughs.
She took other hits at Trump, too, calling him a “very impulsive, reactive personality” in response to an audience question and describing his reported plan to withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement as “totally incomprehensible” because of the economic opportunity she said it presents.
Clinton also commented on the state of the Democratic Party, declining to name possible 2020 presidential candidates but calling on people to focus on coming gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia, as well as the 2018 midterms. Flipping the House is “certainly realistic” and should be a goal for Democrats, she said, but acknowledged the need to get organized enough to do it.
When asked directly by Swisher, Clinton said she is not running for office again. But she also said she has no intention of vacating the public stage, as some of her critics, and some Democrats, want her to do.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Clinton said. “I have a big stake in what happened in this country. I am very unbowed and unbroken about what happened because I don’t want it to happen to anybody else.”