Hillary Clinton: Russians 'guided by Americans' in election interference

PHOTO: Former Secretary of State and WOV Honoree Hillary Clinton speaks onstage at the Ms. Foundation for Women 2017 Gloria Awards Gala & After Party at Capitale, May 3, 2017 in New York City. PlayMonica Schipper/Getty Images
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In a sweeping interview that addressed the array of performers she believes played a role in the drama of her presidential election defeat, Hillary Clinton connected the actions of Russian interlopers in the campaign to domestic actors.

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"The Russians, in my opinion, and based on the intel and counter-intel people I've talked to, could not have known how best to weaponize [damaging information] unless they had been guided ... by Americans and guided by people who had polling and data information," said Clinton in the interview at Recode's Code Conference in California Wednesday.

The former Democratic presidential nominee contended that the timing of WikiLeaks' release of the purported emails of Clinton campaign chair John Podesta -- immediately after The Washington Post published "Access Hollywood" video of Republican rival Donald Trump making sexually explicit comments -- was incumbent upon the direction of a knowledgeable person attempting to protect the Trump campaign.

"They began to have some of their allies within the internet world, like Infowars, take out pieces and begin to say the most outrageous, outlandish, absurd lies you can imagine," said Clinton. "So they had to be ready for that and they had to have a plan for that and they had to be given the go-ahead: 'OK, this could be the end of the Trump campaign. Dump it now. And then let's do everything we can to weaponize it.'"

Russian meddling was just one of the many targets of Clinton's election-related exasperation in the candid discussion with journalists Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher.

"I take responsibility for every decision I made," said Clinton. "But that's not why I lost."

Reproach was assigned to the investigation into her use of a private email server while secretary of state -- which she called "a nothing burger" -- and former FBI Director James Comey's subsequent investigation; media coverage of the election, including socially spread "fake news;" and the outcry over her supposed ties to Wall Street after she gave paid speeches to Goldman Sachs.

"Why did you [give those speeches]?" asked Mossberg at one point, to which Clinton asked why the investment bank was in attendance at the conference.

"Because they pay us," answered Swisher.

"They paid me," said Clinton.

In one particularly stinging exchange, Clinton aired a grievance with the Democratic National Committee for what she perceived as a major campaign disadvantage in the party's data operation.

"I set up my campaign and we have our own data operation. I get the nomination," recounted Clinton. "So I'm now the nominee of the Democratic Party. I inherit nothing from the Democratic Party ... I mean it was bankrupt, it was on the verge of insolvency. Its data was mediocre to poor, nonexistent, wrong. I had to inject money into it."

The DNC responded on Thursday, telling ABC News that new party chair Tom Perez "has said before that the DNC was not firing on all cylinders and that’s why he did a top to bottom review that included technology."

"The DNC is now undergoing an organizational restructuring that will include a new Chief Technology Officer, who will do an in depth analysis and maintain the party’s analytics infrastructure needs," said DNC spokesman Michael Tyler.

Moving forward, the former first lady and U.S. senator gave a steadfast "no" when pressed if she'd be running for the White House again, and discussed the importance of not losing sight of midterm elections in favor of speculation about 2020.

"I think flipping the House is certainly realistic," said Clinton, who had earlier noted that she typically preaches prudence as election prognostications are made -- the most recent example being the most fitting.

"I was the victim of a very broad assumption that I was going to win ... I never believed that. I thought it was going to be close," she said.