Clinton aides after swirl of Trump news: We told you so

Trump on hacking DNC: I think it was Russia
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  • Clinton staffers say they told reporters about Russian links to hacking during the campaign

(CNN)Hillary Clinton's former campaign aides are venting their disappointment -- primarily with the media -- responding to a slew of reports about Donald Trump and Russia with a bitter, yet simple, message: We told you so.

Throughout the 2016 campaign, Clinton's most senior aides blamed Russia for the hacks targeting Democrats, including into Clinton campaign manager John Podesta's email account. In October, Clinton's campaign -- using national press secretary Brian Fallon as their narrator -- released a 6-minute video detailing how, according to their experts, Putin and Russia were looking to aide Trump in an attempt to thwart Clinton's campaign.
A number of Clinton's former aides tweeted the video on Tuesday after CNN's report published. Jenna Lowenstein, Clinton's former digital director, tweeted, "If only anyone listened to @brianefallon," and linked to the video.
"Truth," added Nick Merrill, Clinton's traveling press secretary and one of a few aides who is still working for the former secretary of state.
CNN reported on Tuesday that the four senior-most US intelligence leaders briefed President Barack Obama and Trump last week about how allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about the President-elect. The senior intelligence officials told Trump that Russian intelligence had compiled information potentially harmful to both political parties, but only released information damaging to Hillary Clinton and Democrats, according to sources with knowledge of the briefing.
"It is frustration and disappointment that a lot of the indications of what is coming to light were out before the election but it didn't get the focus and the attention that it deserved," Jesse Ferguson, a former Clinton spokesman said, arguing that the content in leaked emails - controversies, perceived slights and other salacious details -- were covered more closely than where the information was coming from.
Clinton and her aides have long given up any challenge to Trump's November win. But the former secretary of state, now reflecting on why she lost, has primarily blamed Russia and a grudge held by Vladimir Putin for her unexpected loss.
"Vladimir Putin himself directed the covert cyber attacks against our electoral system, against our democracy, apparently because he has a personal beef against," Clinton said at a meeting with donors in December.
Her aides, many of whom are now looking for work and spending considerably more time following the ups and downs of news, are also steaming about how they tried - but failed - to successfully convey Putin's meddling in the 2016 election.
After reports of the Democratic National Committee hack went public in June, Clinton's campaign spent the next five months looking to convince voters, reporters and Trump supporters that Russia was releasing the materials in an attempt to help Trump's candidacy. Former aides recall countless meetings, conference calls and strategy sessions about pushing the story.
For example, Clinton's communications team was in a meeting about Russian hacking and their communications strategy around it when the Washington Post published the "Access Hollywood" video where Trump graphically talked about assaulting women.
All of this contributes to what has become a common feeling among Clinton aides: It is not our fault the story didn't get out. Instead, Clinton's aides blame reporters for the fact the story didn't fully take hold before voters went to the polls in November.
"I haven't been watching this thinking to myself, damn, I wish I had done this," said one former Clinton aide. "I don't want to sit here and be arrogant and say, 'oh no, we did everything perfect.' When you lose and when the story is not told, then there is always something you could have done different. But would it have changed the outcome? I don't know."
The aide added: "Frankly, I think the media blew it."
Clinton camp: DNC hack a Russian plot to help Trump
Clinton camp: DNC hack a Russian plot to help Trump

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Clinton camp: DNC hack a Russian plot to help Trump 02:08
Robby Mook, Clinton's campaign manager, told CNN in July that the campaign was being told by hacking experts that "Russian state actors broke into the DNC, stole these emails, (and are) releasing these emails for the purpose of helping Donald Trump."
In response, Mook was mocked. "What a joke," said Jason Miller, Trump's spokesman. A piece in the New York Observer, a publication owned by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, compared the campaign manager to Joe McCarthy, the infamous senator from Wisconsin who led the charge in the 1950s to root out Communism in the United States.
Clinton's aides now universally hold Mook's interview up with regard. "That held up well," said Ferguson.
Democrats may now be in a worse position for pushing this story than they were during the campaign, though.
Former Clinton aides said on Wednesday that there is no "coordinated effort" before Clinton's former employees to push the Trump story and that most aides are pushing the issue on their own.
"There is a Google group about job options, but there is not that kind of structure," joked one former aide.
Democratic groups looking to oppose Trump are in the nascent process of being formed, though. The Democratic National Committee is building a "war room" to combat Trump led by Zac Petkanas, the Clinton campaign's rapid-response director, and Adrienne Watson, a Clinton spokeswoman, and outside groups like American Bridge, an opposition research firm, have reorganized to rebuff the Republican president.
"I am heartened," Petkanas said Wednesday, "that people are taking it seriously now and I think that it is better later than never."