Hillary Clinton told supporters that she blames her election loss on FBI Director James Comey's letter and hacking by Russians that was directed by Vladimir Putin because the Russian president has a "personal beef" against her.
Clinton, who has mostly avoided the spotlight since Donald Trump was elected president, told donors Thursday in Manhattan that the October letter by Comey relating to emails from her private server in the waning days of the race was one of two "unprecedented" factors that cost her the presidency.
“Swing-state voters made their decisions in the final days breaking against me because of the FBI letter from Director Comey,” she said, according to audio from the event posted by The New York Times. Days after the election, Clinton had cited the Comey letter for stopping the campaign's momentum.
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She called the second factor an "unprecedented Russian plot to swing the election" and voiced support for a bipartisan investigations modeled on the 9/11 commission.
"Vladimir Putin himself directed the covert cyber-attacks against our electoral system, against our democracy, apparently because he has a personal beef against me," Clinton said.
According to audio from the event, Clinton explained that while she was secretary of state Putin "decided he would be president again" and the parliamentary election that followed was "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," she said.
After she criticized the election in a 2011 statement, Putin publicly blamed her "for the outpouring of outrage by his own people" who had turned out to protest, Clinton said.
"And that is the direct line between what he said back then and what he did in this election," Clinton said.
She called the hacking attacks that followed on the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chief John Podesta as "not just an attack against me and my campaign" but against the United States, too.
"We are well beyond normal political concerns here," she said. "This is about the integrity of our democracy and the security of our nation."
Senior U.S. intelligence officials have told NBC News that U.S. intelligence officials believe Putin was personally involved in the covert campaign to interfere in the election. The C.I.A. has concluded that the hacking was done to help Trump.
Russia denies the allegations and Trump has pushed back against intelligence that Russia was behind the hack.
President Barack Obama was expected to address questions related to the hacking during a news conference later Friday. In an interview with NPR News, Obama said whenever a foreign government tries to interfere in U.S. elections, the nation must take action "and we will at a time and place of our own choosing."