'He forever changed history': Hillary Clinton lays blame on James Comey for election defeat

Hillary Clinton, watched by Donald Trump, during an October presidential debate - AFP
Hillary Clinton, watched by Donald Trump, during an October presidential debate - AFP

Hillary Clinton has said she believes James Comey swung the election in favour of Donald Trump, saying that the former FBI director “forever changed history”.

Mr Comey reopened the investigation into Mrs Clinton’s use of a private email server just days before the election – something the Democrat candidate believes significantly harmed her campaign.

“It stopped my momentum,” she said, in an interview on CNN to promote her new book, What Happened.

“I don’t blame voters.

“It was a terrible time to try and break through the last days of a campaign when I had this hanging over my head.”

Mrs Clinton was asked whether she felt Mr Comey had a personal animosity towards her.

“I have no idea,” she said. “I know there had to be some pressure on him because Rudy Giuliani announced two days before that there was something big coming in two days.

“He’s never been clear about his motivation.”

She said she was troubled by the fact that he kept the investigation into Mr Trump’s campaign’s contacts with Russians secret, yet publicly announced the investigation into her own behaviour.

Shortly after the interview, Mr Trump said Mrs Clinton blamed everyone but herself.

Mrs Clinton said she relished now being able to speak openly after spending much of her adult life ”on this high wire, with no net.”

She defended her decision to write a book – which is being heavily promoted across the United States – and said it was a way of learning from the past.

"I think it is important to focus on what happened because lessons can be learned," she said.  "What is important is the fact that the Russians are still going at us. He himself admitted that before Congress."

She said she is convinced the Russians acted to help the Trump campaign, and said: “I think it’s probably bigger than Watergate because it’s about the future. We no longer worry about spies dressed in black. But they break in now … and get through to the core of our being.

Hillary Clinton to Anderson Cooper: Russian meddling "bigger than Watergate because it is about the future" https://t.co/seAJ05P7RN

— CNN (@CNN) September 14, 2017

“I believe it did affect people’s votes. I believe it cost me votes,” she said.

Wikileaks, which released a slew of her party’s emails, was “a front for Putin”, she said.

Mrs Clinton, speaking hypothetically, said if she had won the presidency under similar circumstances to Mr Trump, she would have "said on the first day in office, 'We're going to launch the most thorough investigation.'

"No nation, particularly an adversarial nation can mess with our democracy," she said.  "I would have had an independent commission. I would have done everything I could to get to the bottom of it because it's not going to stop. That's what I'm worried about."

“I’m convinced that there was something going on”: Hillary Clinton on Russian intervention in 2016 election https://t.co/DHcIJoeFN9

— CNN International (@cnni) September 14, 2017

She told how, before the January 20 inauguration, she wrestled with her conscience about attending. She spoke to Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush, to canvas their opinions, and ultimately decided to attend. 

“I can’t tell you I was looking forward to it,” she said. “I was just thinking what it was like when Bill won. What it was like when Al Gore lost. There were so many memories.”

She said she agreed with George W. Bush’s assessment that Mr Trump’s speech was “some weird ----". 

“The rhetoric was so divisive,” she said. “I call it a cry from the white nationalist gut. He had a chance to fill that role, but he didn’t do it that day.”

Hillary Clinton on President Trump’s inauguration speech: "I call it a cry from the white nationalist gut” https://t.co/PAX0ngWcMq

— CNN (@CNN) September 14, 2017

Mrs Clinton said she could not forgive women who came up to her and apologised for not voting, or not doing more to help.

"When it first started happening, it was so soon after the election," she said. 

"It was hard for me to comfort somebody who was coming to me and saying, 'Oh, I wish I had done more,' or, 'I'm sorry I didn't vote' because I think this was one of the most consequential elections that we have faced in a long time."

She added: "So, no absolution. But I just hope people will take what happened this time seriously and be ready and willing to vote the next time."

In the book, she writes: "I wanted to stare right in her eyes and say, 'You didn't vote? How could you not vote? You abdicated your responsibility as a citizen at the worst possible time! And now you want me to make you feel better?’ Of course, I didn't say any of that."

She adds: "These people were looking for absolution that I just couldn't give. We all have to live with the consequences of our decisions."