Note: It was three agencies (CIA, NSA, and FBI), not seventeen that worked on the report about Russian meddling during the 2016 election.
Hillary Clinton was quite candid in her discussion with technology journalists Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher at the Recode Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, California yesterday. The former first lady and two-time presidential loser decided to add more actors who need to be blamed for her 2016 election loss. The latest to join the club are The New York Times, who covered her email fiasco like it was Pearl Harbor, and the Democratic National Committee, who left her a bankrupt and shoddy data operation. Of course, former FBI Director James Comey was included, as were the Russians. Everyone is to blame for her defeat, except Hillary Rodham Clinton. It’s tragicomic. It’s my fault that my campaign failed, but Russia, the FBI, the news media, sexism, and misogyny also sunk me. That’s not taking responsibility; that’s just avoiding reality. Again, Russia and the FBI did not tell you to avoid white working class voters like the plague and all but abandon campaigning in the Rust Belt.
The news media covered a legitimate story of a presidential candidate who had an unauthorized and unsecure email served from which she conducted all official business while serving as secretary of state. Since the server was unsecure, mishandling of classified information—a serious crime—might have occurred. It’s a charge that was amplified by the actions of Clinton, who unilaterally decided to delete 30,000 emails. Then, classified material was found on the server, three of which were given such a classification at the time it was sent or received. The thousands more were later upgraded to that level upon review by the FBI. It’s still bad. As National Review’s David French noted, if Clinton and her entourage were active service members in the military, they’d all be in jail right now. Every aspect of Clinton’s narrative to explain this private email system fell apart. Also, if you want to extinguish any scintilla of wrongdoing with this issue, avoiding the press for almost a year is probably number one on the not to-do list. As for sexism and misogyny, the majority of white women must be oozing with it since they voted for Trump, right? Can we please return to planet earth?
When explaining the Russian bit, however, MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell noted that Hillary peddled a conspiracy theory of her own, noting that the DNC emails that were posted on Wikileaks were weaponized—and that guidance was needed in order to be properly executed. By whom you might ask? Well, these people were obviously Americans colluding with hackers to disseminate this information effectively to influence voters. Mitchell added that she was “basically pointing to the Trump campaign.”
“She mentioned Jared Kushner. She mentioned [Stephen] Bannon and Kellyanne Conway in the context of the fact that the Mercers—the big fundraisers who contributed to the campaign and had…and owned Cambridge Analytics—had said to Trump bring on Bannon from Breitbart, bring on Kellyanne Conway who were already on their payroll as part of a deal—and that they connected with the data bank and the RNC. So, she’s drawing a conspiracy theory.
Mitchell added that Clinton doesn’t have the evidence either.
Here are the relevant portions from Clinton’s interview at Redcode [emphasis mine]:
Hillary Clinton: Donald Trump, who did nothing about really setting up any kind of data operation, inherits an RNC data foundation that, after the Republicans lost in 2012, and they thought they had a very good operation with the setup that Romney did called ORCA, they thought that was really state of the art, they lose.
So they raised — best estimates are close to a hundred million dollars, they brought in their main vendors, they basically said, “We will never be behind the Democrats again,” and they invested between 2012 and 2016 this hundred million dollars to build this data foundation. They beta tested it. They ran it ... somebody was able to determine about 227,000 surveys to double check, triple check, quadruple check, the information.
So Trump becomes the nominee and he is basically handed this tried and true, effective foundation. Then you’ve got Cambridge Analytica and you know, you can believe the hype on how great they were or the hype on how they weren’t, but the fact is, they added something. And I think again, we better understand that the Mercers did not invest all that money just for their own amusement. 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.” Trump says, “Fine, who cares,” right? So Bannon, who’d been running the Breitbart operation, supplying a lot of the ... untrue, false stories ...
Walt Mossberg: You gotta start saying lies.
Clinton: Yeah. We know. So, they married content with delivery and data. And it was a potent combination. Now, the question is, where and how did the Russians get into this? And I think it’s a very important question. So, I assume that a lot of people here may have — and if you haven’t, I hope you will — read the declassified report by the Intelligence community that came out in early January.
Mossberg: This is 17 agencies ...
Clinton: Seventeen agencies, all in agreement, which I know from my experience as a Senator and Secretary of State, is hard to get. They concluded with high confidence that the Russians ran an extensive information war campaign against my campaign, to influence voters in the election. They did it through paid advertising we think, they did it through false news sites, they did it through these thousand agents, they did it through machine learning, which you know, kept spewing out this stuff over and over again. The algorithms that they developed. So that was the conclusion. And I think it’s fair to ask, how did that actually influence the campaign? And how did they know what messages to deliver?
Swisher: Who told them?
Clinton: Who told them? Who were they coordinating with, or colluding with? Because the Russians historically in the last couple of decades and then increasingly, you know, are launching cyber attacks, and they are stealing vasts 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. So this is different because they went public, and they were conveying this weaponized information and the content of it, and they were running ... You know, there’s all these stories of guys over in Macedonia who are running these fake news sites and I’ve seen them now and you sit there and it looks like a sort of low-level CNN operation ...
Mossberg: Or a fake newspaper.
Clinton: Or a fake newspaper ...
Mossberg: Like the Denver Guardian.
Clinton: Like a fake newspaper, and so the 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.
Mossberg: Guided by Americans.
Clinton: Guided by Americans and guided by people who had polling and data information.
Swisher: Who is that?
Clinton: Now let me just finish, because this is the second and third step. So we know that they did that. We understand it. Best example: So within one hour, one hour of the Access Hollywood tapes being leaked, within one hour, the Russians — let’s say WikiLeaks, something — dumped the John Podesta emails. Now, if you’ve ever read the John Podesta emails, they are anodyne to boredom [laughter]. But ...
Swisher: I don’t know if you’re a lizard or not but ... [HRC laughs] I’m guessing you’re not a lizard. But who do you think directed it? And do you blame Facebook, or any of these platforms, for doing nothing? What should they have done and are they culpable?
Let me separate out the questions. First, we’re getting more information about all of the contacts between Trump campaign officials and Trump associates with Russians before, during and after the election. So I hope that we’ll get enough information to be able to answer that question.
Swisher: But you’re leaning Trump.
Clinton: Yes ... yes. I’m leaning Trump. I think it’s pretty hard not to. I think that the marriage of the domestic fake news operations, the domestic RNC Republican allied data, you know, combined with the very affective 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, in bed with WikiLeaks, in bed with Guccifer, in bed with DC Leaks.
And you know, DC Leaks and Guccifer, which were dropping a lot of this stuff on me, they haven’t done anything since early January. Their job was done. They got their job done. So we’re going to, I hope, be able to connect up a lot of the dots, and it’s really important because when Comey did testify before being fired this last couple of weeks, he was asked, “Are the Russians still involved?” And he goes, “Yes, they are. Look, why wouldn’t they be? It worked for them!” And it is important that Americans, and particularly people in tech and business understand, Putin wants to bring us down. And he is an old KGB agent. I had, obviously, run-ins with him, because that in large measure prompted his animus toward me, and his desire to help Trump. But it is deeper than that, it is way beyond me.
So with respect to the platforms, you know, I am again not exactly sure what conclusions we should draw. But here’s what I believe. I believe that what was happening to me was unprecedented and we were scrambling. We went and told everybody we could find in the middle of the summer, the Russians were messing with the election. And we were basically shooed away, like, “Oh you know, there she goes, vast right-wing conspiracy.” Now it’s a vast Russian conspiracy. Well, turned out we were right. And we saw evidence of it. We could track it. And we couldn’t get ... we could not get the press to follow it and we never got confirmation. Remember, Comey was more than happy to talk about my emails, but he wouldn’t talk about the investigation of the Russians. So people went to vote on November 8th having no idea that there was an active counter-intelligence investigation going on of the Trump campaign.
Well, Mr. Comey did want to talk about Russian interference last summer, Madame secretary. The Obama White House stopped him.