Former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has responded to Russian hacking allegations against her campaign and the Democratic National Committee, calling the alleged electoral interference an "attack against our country," according to The New York Times. This is the first time since the election that Clinton herself has spoken out about recent CIA findings which reportedly concluded with "high confidence" that the Russian government acted to help Trump win the presidency, not merely to sow confusion and chaos in the U.S. electoral process.
Her comments came in the context of an event she appeared at on Thursday, Dec. 15, a sort of thank you event for some of her top fundraisers ― many of whom, according to the Times' report, were still "despondent" over her loss. Despite winning the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes, a full two percentage points more than President-elect Donald Trump, a series of close losses in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan ultimately doomed her.
The narrowness of her defeat, which amounted to less than 100,000 votes across those three states, has left many people wondering whether alleged Russian interference could have proved the decisive blow, as well as whether the eleventh-hour letter by FBI director James Comey could have swayed things. Clinton addressed both on Thursday night.
In audio released by the Times, Clinton began by conceding that she "knows how the system works probably better than anybody else," noting that in 2008 she narrowly beat President Obama in the popular vote but came up short in the delegate race, and has now won the general election popular vote by millions, yet lost via the electoral map. She then addressed some of the "unprecedented factors" that impacted the outcome.
Don't take it from me. Take it from independent analysts, take it from the Trump campaign, take it from Nate Silver, who's pointed out that swing state voters made their decisions in the final days, breaking against me because of the FBI letter from Director Comey. And Nate SIlver believes ― I happen to believe this ― that that letter most likely made the difference in the outcome.
Clinton then segued to addressing what she called "the unprecedented Russian plot to swing this election," calling it something "every American should be worried about," and giving a light history lesson on the origins of Putin's animosity towards her.
You know, we have to recognize that, as the latest reports made clear, Vladimir Putin himself directed the covert cyber attacks against our electoral system, against our democracy, apparently because he has a personal beef against me. And why is that? Because, when he came back into power ― because when I became secretary of state he was serving as prime minister to Medvedev, who was president, and I want you to know this, because you'll go home, and people will ask you ― so he decided, you know, that's the way their system works, he decided that he would be president again.
So in the fall of 2011, they had quote parliamentary elections which were so flawed, so illegitimate, that it was embarrassing. I was your secretary of state, at least in those years, we stood up for democracy and human rights, and this was a phony attempt for him to appear as though he had a parliamentary victory. So I issued a statement, that's what secretaries of state do, and I basically said, based on independent observations and analysis this was an unfair, not free, illegitimate election.
Now, at the same time, citizens of Russia were pouring into the streets to protest. More than a million in Moscow. People who were outraged because they thought they were on a trajectory of greater freedom, greater opportunity, and they watched that and they were appalled. And it was mostly the middle class, it was people who really believed in a new Russia. 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.
I want you to know this, because he is not only determined to, you know, score a point against me ― which he did ― but also to undermine our democracy, because he understands we are in a long term historical struggle to prove that democracy and freedom operates well, and creates the greatest chance for more people to live up to their own potential than any other system that has ever been in existence. And this great American experiment of ours has done it better, with all of our flaws and all of our shortcomings, than any place in the world. So if you're looking at where we are globally right now, this is part of a long-term strategy to cause us doubt ourselves, and to create the circumstances in which Americans either wittingly or unwittingly will begin to cede their freedoms to a much more powerful state.
Clinton then remarked, with a slightly icy edge, that "as the press is finally catching up to the facts which we desperately tried to present to them during the last weeks of the campaign," that the alleged interference was not simply an attack on her political career, but an "attack against our country." She went on to praise the emerging bipartisan effort to launch a proper investigation into the matter, saying she agreed with the effort, and suggesting it should be modeled on the 9/11 commission.
The public deserves to know exactly what happened, and why, in order for us to prevent future attacks on our systems, including our electoral system. And at the same time it is more important than ever to stand up for the values and the vision at the heart of this campaign. So my message, really, is twofold: yes, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart, but I also want to urge you not to lose heart. America needs you, needs your talents, your energy, your ambition, your generosity. We need you on the front lines of our democracy no matter where you're from, no matter what you do. To keep fighting for what we believe in.
Because I've learned that if you dig deep enough, through all the mud of politics, eventually you hit something hard and true, a foundation of fundamental values that define us as Americans. I really believe that, and I have over 66 million reasons to be proud of that.
We are clearly now divided by race and religion, class and culture, and often paralyzing partisanship. But most Americans do share a vision of a hopeful, inclusive, big-hearted America, but it is tied to ensuring that our systems, both our economic system and our political system, actually work. And that's what our campaign was about. It wasn't about one candidate or even one election, it was about the country we love, and the future we need to build together, and we can't ever give up on that.
Clinton concluded by saying that while she doesn't know "what we will find awaits us" under the incoming Trump administration, she was "incredibly grateful" for the support she received, and signed off with a "happy holidays, everybody!"
All in all, it's extremely compelling audio, with Clinton both throwing her weight (albeit in a pseudo-private setting) behind the effort to fully and independently investigate Russia's role in the 2016 race, more or less directly accusing Comey of costing her the election, and reflecting on the origins of her personal conflict with Putin. It runs just a bit more than eight minutes in total, and if you've got the time, it's definitely worth taking a listen.