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Hillary Clinton said Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election was likely due to Vladimir Putin’s anger with her over her five-year- old comments about his country’s elections, three Democratic donors at her Thursday night event told POLITICO.
Speaking to despondent fundraisers at the Plaza Hotel in New York to thank them for their support, Clinton pointed to the late-campaign letters from FBI Director Jim Comey and Russian hacking as proximate causes for her loss.
The Comey blame echoed what she told campaign bundlers on a private conference call shortly after her loss to Donald Trump, but she has otherwise avoided speaking about the race. Thursday marked the first time the former secretary of state has pointed to a Putin grudge as an explanation for his country’s involvement.
“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, according to audio of her remarks obtained by The New York Times. “I want you to know this because he is determined not only to score a point against me, which he did, but also to undermine our democracy.”
That explanation, however, was hardly enough to satisfy some of her donors who gathered at the hotel and are still angrily demanding answers from her campaign team about its strategic missteps.
“All she did,” said one such Democrat who attended the event, “was talk Comey and Russia.”
Many of the assembled donors and fundraisers have been anxious to get a more detailed autopsy on the reasons behind Clinton’s stunning defeat, one that provided a more thorough explanation of what went wrong. Clinton instead reminded the audience several times that she won the popular vote, and didn’t expand beyond pointing to the Comey letters and Russian involvement.