Clin­ton slams Trump, Rus­sians at book tour stop

The Washington Times Weekly - - Culture, Etc. - BY BEN WOLFGANG

Hours af­ter say­ing she may still for­mally chal­lenge the re­sults of the 2016 elec­tion, Hil­lary Clin­ton re­turned to Wash­ing­ton on last week and said a “bril­liant” psy­cho­log­i­cal cam­paign by the Rus­sians — per­haps in di­rect concert with the Trump cam­paign — had a ma­jor im­pact on the out­come last Novem­ber.

In an ap­pear­ance at Wash­ing­ton’s Warner The­atre to pro­mote her new book, “What Hap­pened,” the former sec­re­tary of state spoke at length about how her own cam­paign of­ten failed to re­act quickly to chang­ing moods in the elec­torate, how “fake news” spread through­out the pub­lic con­scious­ness and af­fected vot­ers’ at­ti­tudes, and other big-pic­ture take­aways from the ugly, di­vi­sive race.

But Mrs. Clin­ton saved her heav­i­est shots for Pres­i­dent Trump and his cam­paign’s al­leged col­lu­sion with the Rus­sians. Asked a tongue-in-cheek ques­tion about whether she prefers Mr. Trump or Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, her re­sponse drew mas­sive ap­plause from the ve­he­mently pro-Clin­ton crowd.

“I have to take that un­der ad­vise­ment for the fol­low­ing rea­son: I ran against both of them,” she said.

More broadly, Mrs. Clin­ton said the hack of her cam­paign chair­man John Podesta’s per­sonal email ac­count was part of a com­plex plan to in­flu­ence vot­ers. She sug­gested that Amer­i­cans even­tu­ally will learn the true ex­tent of co­or­di­na­tion be­tween pro-Rus­sian ac­tors and ma­jor play­ers in the Trump cam­paign.

“The psy­chol­ogy of it was bril­liant,” she said of the way the emails were sys­tem­at­i­cally re­leased to the pub­lic, be­gin­ning just hours af­ter a decade-old “Ac­cess Hol­ly­wood” tape was re­leased to the pub­lic that showed Mr. Trump brag­ging in vul­gar terms about grop­ing women with­out reper­cus­sions.

“They had to be weaponized,” she said of the emails. “They had to have el­e­ments plucked out and per­verted in a way that would be hard to imag­ine and then sent back into the cy­ber vir­tual world.”

Be­fore the event, Mrs. Clin­ton left open the pos­si­bil­ity that she may chal­lenge the re­sults of the elec­tion it­self. Rus­sian ac­tions dur­ing the elec­tion, she said, could jus­tify such a move. She did not ad­dress that is­sue.

“I wouldn’t rule it out,” she told NPR of a pos­si­ble le­gal case against the elec­tion re­sults, though she quickly ad­mit­ted there’s vir­tu­ally no le­gal path for­ward.

“There are schol­ars, aca­demics, who have ar­gu­ments that it would be [pos­si­ble], but I don’t think they’re on strong ground. But peo­ple are mak­ing those ar­gu­ments. I just don’t think we have a mech­a­nism,” Mrs. Clin­ton said.

What was also clear is that the former first lady, de­spite the wave of crit­i­cism that’s come as a re­sult of her post-elec­tion blame game, still has plenty of pas­sion­ate fol­low­ers.

Out­side the the­ater, Clin­ton sup­port­ers lined up well be­fore the doors opened at 6 p.m. Many wore “Hil­lary 2016” shirts and caps, and ven­dors were sell­ing but­tons and cloth­ing adorned with slo­gans — such as “Stronger To­gether” — from Mrs. Clin­ton’s failed pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

In­side, the event al­most had the feel­ing of a cam­paign rally. Au­di­ence mem­bers erupted in cheers just af­ter 7 p.m. as or­ga­niz­ers sim­ply an­nounced the pro­gram would soon be­gin.

When Mrs. Clin­ton ar­rived on stage, the crowd gave her a stand­ing ova­tion that lasted nearly two min­utes.

In the book, and in her ap­pear­ance, Mrs. Clin­ton spends a fair amount of time blam­ing oth­ers for her de­feat. She ad­mits some short­com­ings in her cam­paign, but also casts blame on former FBI Di­rec­tor James B. Comey for re­open­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into her use of a pri­vate email server late in the race, on then-Pres­i­dent Obama for not more force­fully ad­dress­ing Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the race, and on oth­ers.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Hil­lary Clin­ton pro­moted her book “What Hap­pened” dur­ing an ap­pear­ance at the Warner The­atre in Wash­ing­ton.

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