Bill Clinton: Let's face it, Comey cost Hillary the election

Remind me, was it Jim Comey who decided that Hillary’s email correspondence at State should be routed through a private “homebrew” server rather than a secure government server, for the obvious purpose of trying to keep her emails out of the reach of FOIA requests? Was it Comey who decided to pay a social call to Loretta Lynch on an airplane tarmac while his wife was being investigated for federal crimes, setting in motion a chain of events that might well have guaranteed Democratic defeat?

If Bill and Hillary had behaved ethically in those situations, she might well be president. But then, if Bill and Hillary had behaved ethically, they wouldn’t be Bill and Hillary.

“James Comey cost her the election,” Clinton said, according to an editorial published in the Bedford-Pound Ridge Record Review in New York after its editor ran into Clinton at a local bookstore…

Bill Clinton in the new editorial also criticized Trump when asked whether he thought the president-elect was smart.

“He doesn’t know much,” Clinton said.

“One thing he does know is how to get angry, white men to vote for him.”

One interesting thing about this: Handed an obvious opportunity to capitalize on the news cycle and blame Russia’s hacking operation for Hillary’s loss, Bill passed and pointed his finger at Comey instead. How come? Could it be that … he honestly believes that Comey’s letter on October 28th, announcing the reopening of the email investigation, was decisive? Here’s the national polling from October 16th through the end of the race. Note when Trump’s big surge begins.


On October 29th, the day after the Comey news, Clinton led by a comfortable 4.6 points. Three days later, on November 1st, that lead had been cut by more than half, to 2.2 points. By November 3rd, it was down to 1.3 points. Clinton recovered a bit by Election Day but Trump’s polling was still higher on November 8th than it was before the Comey bombshell. Princeton election analyst Sam Wang (whose electoral model infamously gave Clinton a better than 99 percent chance of winning this year) captured the poll shift this way:

It wasn’t a straight slope upward for Trump from the Comey news to Election Day, but given how tight the race ended up being in the key Rust Belt states of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, could Comey’s eleventh-hour reminder of Hillary’s natsec negligence have been decisive? Arguably, sure. Nate Silver has argued, in fact, that Clinton would “almost certainly” have won the election if it had been held the day before Comey issued his letter, pointing to Trump’s amazing advantage on Election Day in state after state among voters who decided in the final week. The great unknown is how much of that late break was influenced by Comey and how much of it was voters simply making up their minds as the big vote approached that their top priority was changing Washington, bringing back jobs, “shaking things up,” or however you care to frame that. They’re not mutually exclusive — you can believe that voters were leaning towards the outsider Trump before Comey reminded them of just how unworthy the insiders are of the public’s trust — but it’s possible that the late polling shift was less a function of Comey’s news than of more general “what do we have to lose by trying something different?” thinking.

Here’s Bill Clinton himself, on his way to cast his vote as an elector from New York for Hillary today, citing Silver by name as support for his theory that Comey’s letter was decisive. From Trump’s perspective, better to blame it on Comey than on Putin, right? After all, in the end, the Clintons’ Comey problem was entirely of their own making. Exit question: Would Hillary have been president if Comey had chosen to recommend charges against her in July, as he was perfectly justified in doing under the statute as written? I can’t help noticing how the “Comey let a guilty Hillary Clinton skate” part of the FBI saga is reliably conveniently omitted from the Democratic sour-grapes narrative of the election.