Hillary Clinton admits her 'most important' blunder that swayed the 2016 presidential election

Clinton talks about life after the 2016 election in an interview.

ByABC News
September 10, 2017, 11:55 AM

— -- After largely staying out of the spotlight for almost a year, Hillary Clinton is back to talk about the 2016 presidential election and how she dealt with a loss that she said left her “gobsmacked.”

“It still is very painful,” she said. “It hurts a lot.”

In her first televised interview since November, Clinton, a former first lady and a former secretary of state, described on CBS’s “Sunday Morning” the moment she found out she would not be moving back into the White House as the first female president of the United States.

“I just felt this enormous letdown, just kind of loss of feeling and direction and sadness,” she said. “Off I went, into a frenzy of closet cleaning and long walks in the woods, playing with my dogs and, as I write [in her upcoming memoir], yoga, alternate nostril breathing, which I highly recommend, trying to calm myself down. And, you know, my share of chardonnay. It was a very hard transition. I really struggled. I couldn’t feel, I couldn’t think. I was just gobsmacked, wiped out.”

But Clinton, the Democratic nominee, acknowledges that she “maybe missed a few chances” to strike back at her main opponent, Donald Trump, and at the message his campaign was sending to voters.

She said he was able to tap into the frustrations of “millions of white people.”

“He was quite successful in referencing a nostalgia that would give hope, comfort, settle grievances for millions of people who were upset about gains that were made by others,” Clinton said.

Attending Trump’s inauguration was an “out of body experience,” and the address she heard him give at the Capitol was a “cry from the white nationalist gut,” she said.

“I understood that there were many Americans who, because of the financial crash, there was anger. And there was resentment. I knew that. But I believed that it was my responsibility to try to offer answers to it, not to fan it,” Clinton said. “It was a mistake because a lot of people didn’t want to hear my plans. They wanted me to share their anger. And I should’ve done a better job of demonstrating I get it.”

Still, in her time out of the political spotlight, she has come to accept the harm her gaffes may have caused, including calling some Trump voters a “basket of deplorables,” a comment she called a “political gift” to Trump.

“I thought Trump was behaving in a deplorable manner. I thought a lot of his appeals to voters were deplorable. I thought his behavior, as we saw on the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape, was deplorable. And there were a large number of people who didn’t care. It did not matter to them. And he turned out to be a very effective reality-TV star,” Clinton said.

But her most costly blunder, she said, was made not on the campaign trail but during her tenure as secretary of state.

“I think the most important of the mistakes I made was using personal email,” Clinton said.

Although then–FBI Director James Comey cleared her of criminal charges in her use of a private server, his speech calling her actions “careless” stuck. She said she believes those comments were targeted at the right wing.

“I don’t know quite what audience he was playing to, other than maybe some, you know, right-wing commentators, right-wing members of Congress, whatever,” Clinton said.

While she has no plans to run for office again, she said, she will continue to play a role in public sphere. “I am done with being a candidate,” she said. “But I am not done with politics, because I literally believe that our country’s future is at stake.”

Clinton’s memoir about the 2016 election, “What Happened,” will be released Tuesday.

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