What is Hillary Clinton thinking?

People and things Clinton blames for her loss
People and things Clinton blames for her loss

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Story highlights

  • Clinton associates say tech summit criticism was one-off moment
  • One former adviser says she is "focused on her legacy"

(CNN)Hillary Clinton had no plan to make news -- let alone go after the Democratic National Committee.

But then she found herself face to face with veteran tech journalists Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg at the Recode conference in California. Anxiety about social media and the spread of "fake news" was in the air. When Mossberg lamented that Democrats had fallen "way behind" Republicans on the technology front, Clinton let loose.
"I get the nomination. So I'm now the nominee of the Democratic Party. I inherit nothing from the Democratic Party," Clinton said Wednesday. "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."
    Since reemerging in public after her defeat in November, Clinton has leveled sharp criticism at a host of targets she blames for President Donald Trump's victory, including Russia, former FBI Director James Comey and major news organizations like the New York Times.
    But her stunning rebuke this week of the DNC surprised and unsettled even her allies and former aides, who are fretting in private -- and some in public -- that Clinton is at risk of alienating Democrats who supported her loyally.
    Clinton associates say that she is unlikely to make a habit of criticizing her own party's institutions, describing her comments at the Recode interview as a one-off event -- and a unique confluence of her frustrations and a digital-savvy audience eager to hear them.
    But her allies also acknowledge that Clinton's grievances about the DNC are real and also note that she had lamented well before Election Day that the Democratic Party's infrastructure did not serve her well.
    Clinton has been mulling over the reasons that led to her unexpected defeat on November 8. As she has acknowledged in public, Clinton has mentally separated out those reasons into two categories: those that could have been corrected and others that were simply out of her control.
    Russia's meddling in the election, the Wikileaks hacks, the coverage of her private email server and even Comey's actions fall in the latter column.
    But Clinton believed during the campaign and maintains to this day that her party's data operation was utterly inadequate, hurt her candidacy and was entirely fixable.
    The DNC issue has "been on her mind since before Election Day," a Clinton associate told CNN.
    "These were all things that affected the election and that we can solve going forward," the associate added. "This was newsy because it was talking about a specific political organization within her party, but it wasn't out of line with the other hard truths that she's been talking about."

    All about Comey

    But overwhelmingly, Clinton is focused on Russian interference in the election along with Comey's public statements about the investigation into her private email server as chief reasons for her defeat.
    She has been increasingly explicit in alleging mischief on the part of the Russians and the Trump campaign, frequently pointing her finger directly at Trump himself. Amid an escalating federal investigation into individuals in the Trump orbit, Clinton has sharpened those allegations in public appearances, seeming to grow more confident that she will be vindicated by facts.
    Clinton has said that if the election had been on October 27 -- the day before Comey sent a letter to members of Congress about her use of an email server -- she would have won the election. In her interview at the Recode conference Wednesday, she went as far as to say that she believes American supporters of Trump colluded with the Russians.
    "She clearly feels and many of us feel that the election was stolen from her. It's undisputed how close the margin was in the three states that made the difference," said Terry Shumaker, a longtime Clinton friend and former U.S. ambassador to Trinidad. "Am I angry? Yes. Do I assume she is? Yes."
    One former Clinton adviser who has been in touch with her since Election Day was blunt in their assessment of Clinton's recent venting about the circumstances surrounding her defeat.
    This person was deeply bothered by Clinton's assertion on Wednesday in which she said "I take responsibility for every decision I make -- but that's not why I lost," and said it reflected the fact that Clinton remains "focused on her legacy."
    "I think this time around, the confluence of the Russia hacking and that they tried to sway the election Trump's way... and the Comey thing gave her back-up to say, 'Hey, this wasn't my fault,'" the ex-adviser said. "She doesn't want to be the person that lost Donald Trump. It's one thing to lose to Barack Obama. It's entirely a different thing to lose to Donald Trump."