In the wake of her surprise loss to Donald Trump, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton blamed a letter from FBI Director James Comey for stalling her campaign's momentum just ahead of Election Day. Clinton said her campaign's post-election analysis showed that while Comey's initial letter to Congress regarding a review of new emails caused their numbers to drop, his second letter served to motivate Trump supporters to get out and vote in higher numbers.
"There are lots of reasons why an election like this is not successful," Clinton said Saturday during a phone call with some of her top campaign donors, according to the Washington Post. "But our analysis is that Comey's letter raising doubts that were groundless, baseless, proven to be, stopped our momentum."
In a letter to Congress dated Oct. 28, Comey said the FBI had unearthed emails "that appear to be pertinent" to the agency's closed investigation on Clinton's use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state. The agency had reportedly discovered more than 650,000 emails during an unrelated investigation into former Congressman Anthony Weiner.
Clinton told donors the campaign had been leading in all but two battleground states prior to Comey's first letter. "We had a real wind at our back," she said. According to Clinton, Comey's letter caused her numbers to drop in several key states. "We dropped, and we had to keep really pushing ahead to regain our advantage." Yet, just as the campaign seemed to be rebounding, another letter from Comey went public.
Roughly three days before the election, Comey sent a second letter to Congress in which he said the FBI had found no reason to change its initial recommendation of not filing charges against Clinton. Almost all of the emails uncovered in the Weiner investigation were reported to be personal or duplicates of emails already reviewed by the agency.
While the content of Comey's follow-up letter echoed the "there's nothing to be found" message Clinton's campaign had put out, she reportedly told her contributors her team felt it had been more damaging to the campaign than the first. "Just as we were back on the upward trajectory, the second letter from Comey essentially doing what we knew it would — saying there was no there there — was a real motivator for Trump’s voters," the Post reports Clinton said.
The roughly 30-minute call Saturday with donors who'd contributed more than $100,000 to her failed presidential campaign was the first time Clinton has been heard from since delivering her concession speech on Nov. 9.