Hillary Clinton went a step further Wednesday in blaming her election loss to Donald Trump on Russian cyberattacks, saying Americans including associates of the Republican president likely had a hand in the effort.
The Democratic nominee in last year’s bitterly fought White House race addressed a technology conference in California, speaking at length about what she termed a Moscow-led campaign of “disinformation” against her that influenced the vote.
“The Russians, in my opinion, and based on the intel and counter-intel people I’ve talked to, could not have known how best to weaponize that information unless they had been guided,” Clinton told the Recode conference, referring to an avalanche of false information, social media bots and hacks of Clinton campaign emails.
Some of those people helping the Russians, she said, had access to “polling and data information.”
Asked by a moderator who those individuals might be, Clinton said: “We’re getting more information about all of the contacts between Trump campaign officials and Trump associates with Russians before, during and after the election. So I hope that we’ll get enough information to be able to answer that question.”
“I’m leaning Trump,” she said of the connections. “I think it’s pretty hard not to.”
The Republican president struck back in a tweet late Wednesday, criticizing Clinton for failing to take responsibility for her loss.
“Crooked Hillary Clinton now blames everybody but herself, refuses to say she was a terrible candidate. Hits Facebook & even Dems & DNC,” he said.
He was referring to Clinton’s assertions during her talk that fake news about her was spread on Facebook, and that the Democratic Party, unlike the well-funded Republicans, did not have a sophisticated data system.
Clinton snapped back at the president in a brief message on Twitter.
“People in covfefe houses shouldn’t throw covfefe,” she wrote.
Trump used the non-existant word in an incomplete sentence tweeted just after midnight Tuesday. The tweet remained online for some 5.5 hours, sparking worldwide ridicule.
The message was finally deleted early Wednesday, and Trump joked about it in a subsequent tweet.
When White House spokesman Sean Spicer was asked about the cryptic word he told incredulous reporters that Trump “and a small group of people know exactly what he meant.” He gave no further explanation.
Several US congressional committees have launched investigations into Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 election and its possible coordination with Trump campaign aides or associates.
The Department of Justice has appointed a former FBI director as a special counsel to head a separate, independent investigation.
Clinton, who ruled out a new election bid, told Recode that the best example of such coordination took place in October.
WikiLeaks released emails hacked from her campaign chief John Podesta within an hour of a 2005 video of Trump boasting about how he could get away with groping women was leaked to the press.
“They had to be ready for that, and they had to have a plan for that and they had to be given the go-ahead; ‘OK, this could be the end of the Trump campaign. Dump it now,’” she said.
As she had done previously, Clinton also said that then-FBI director James Comey dealt her campaign “a tremendous hit” when he briefly re-opened an investigation into her use of a private email account and server just days before the election.
“He dumps that on me on October 28, and I immediately start falling,” she said. The presidential vote was November 8.
While she said she takes “responsibility” for the loss, Clinton appeared reluctant to publicly discuss her own campaign mistakes.
Despite losing the indirect but all-important state-by-state electoral college count, “I won three million more (popular) votes than the other guy,” she said.