Hillary Clinton did something more interesting Wednesday than blame others for her loss in last year’s presidential election.
She has done that many times before, though her dig at the Democratic National Committee was a new and interesting twist.
Clinton publicly stitched together a comprehensive theory of how Russian interference into the 2016 campaign led to her defeat at the hands of President Trump.
That theory may prove to be conspiratorial nonsense or the dominant storyline of the Russia probe. But Clinton spelled it out more clearly and succinctly than ever before, laying it all out in the public eye.
Speaking at a California tech conference, Clinton said she tried to warn us about Russian collusion with the Trump campaign at the time.
“Like, oh, you know, there she goes, vast right-wing conspiracy, now it’s a vast Russian conspiracy,” she said. “Well, it turned out we were right, and we saw evidence of it.”
This is the vast right-wing conspiracy 2.0, the Russian edition.
First, Clinton raised the real issue of cybersecurity threats coming from Russia. “Because the Russians historically in the last couple of decades and then increasingly, you know, are launching cyber attacks, and they are stealing vast amounts of information, and a lot of the information they’ve stolen they’ve used for internal purposes, to affect markets, to affect the intelligence services, etc.,” she said.
But the Russians wouldn’t have known how to undermine Clinton in front of a domestic political audience without American help, she said.
“[T] he Russians — in my opinion and based on the intel and the counterintel people I’ve talked to — could not have known how best to weaponize that information unless they had been guided,” Clinton claimed. “Guided by Americans and guided by people who had polling and data information.”
In the 1990s, the anti-Clinton conspiracy was funded by wealthy conservatives like Richard Mellon Scaife. This time around, she blames Robert and Rebekah Mercer.
Clinton darkly suggested that this could be where Stephen Bannon and Kellyanne Conway come into the picture.
“And I think again, we better understand that the Mercers did not invest all that money just for their own amusement,” she said. “We know they played in Brexit, and we know that they came to Jared Kushner and basically said, ‘We will marry our operation,’ which was more as it’s been described, psychographic, sentiment, a lot of harvesting of Facebook information, ‘We will marry that with the RNC on two conditions: You pick Steve Bannon, and you pick Kellyanne Conway. And then we’re in.'”
“So Bannon, who’d been running the Breitbart operation, supplying a lot of the … untrue, false stories,” Clinton added. “So, they married content with delivery and data. And it was a potent combination.”
Up until now, the premise of Russian interference stories has always been that the country was involved in hacking and perhaps leaking the emails of key Democratic leaders, such as Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, via WikiLeaks.
Clinton now sees a whole axis of evil from Moscow to the Mercers.
“I think the marriage of the domestic fake news operations, the domestic RNC Republican-allied data, you know, combined with the very effective capabilities that the Russians brought, you know, basically, the group running this was the GRU, which is the military intelligence arm of the Russian military, and they have a very sophisticated cyber operation,” she said.
“In bed with WikiLeaks, in bed with Guccifer, in bed with DCLeaks, and you know, DCLeaks and Guccifer which were dropping a lot of this stuff on me, they haven’t done anything since early January,” Clinton continued. “So, I mean, their job was done. They got their job done.”
Clinton could be ridiculed for heading into Louise Mensch territory on Russia and the presidential campaign. But as the Russia probe heats up — a special counsel has been appointed and subpoenas have started flying on Capitol Hill — it strikes a nerve with the Democratic base.
There a few loose threads in Clinton’s ball of yarn, however. She rather implausibly suggests a late Podesta email dump was somehow equivalent to the leak of the “Access Hollywood” tape.
Nearly everyone covering the “Access Hollywood” tape thought we were witnessing the end of Trump’s campaign. We were wrong. But nothing that came from those hacked emails had anywhere near the immediate impact of Trump’s crude talk with Billy Bush, not even the messages confirming Bernie Sanders’ supporters suspicions of DNC-Clinton collusion during the primaries.
Clinton did leave the Democratic convention with a lead in the polls, after all.
The former secretary of state barely attempts to make the case that “fake news” moved persuadable voters, confining her argument to Google search terms in swing states. A person inclined to believe that Clinton was going to ban the Pledge of Allegiance, or run a child sex ring inside a pizza parlor, or have people murdered, or become a lizard is not likely to have ever been an #ImWithHer voter.
Salacious clickbait may increase the intensity of people emotionally invested in believing the worst about Clinton. The notion that it actually persuades enough would-be Clinton voters to stay home or cast ballots for someone else to flip Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin isn’t plausible.
Folding this into a broader story of unfairness against Clinton, implicating the New York Times and other media outlets that were overwhelmingly negative in their coverage of Trump because they also reported on her private email story, raises its own problems.
The most immediately relevant is that it complicates former FBI Director James Comey’s role in this morality tale. When Comey testifies before Congress next week, he will be portrayed as a dedicated public servant who almost alone stood up to Trump and malign Russian influence.
Clinton’s Comey remains something closer to a villain than a hero, a dupe who interfered in the election almost as much as the Russians.
“Because as I explain in my book, you know, the Comey letter, which was, now we know, partly based on a false memo from the Russians,” she said. “It was a classic piece of Russian disinformation — comprimat, they call it.”
In any event, we now know that Clinton believes Russia colluded not only with the Trump campaign but parts of American conservative media, the people she has always called the vast right-wing conspiracy, to bring her down.
She told us in her own words.