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Democratic Hillary Clinton Blames FBI Director James Comey for Her US Presidential Election Defeat

Three people who took part in Clinton's telephonic conference recounted her analysis of the election outcome

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Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton pauses as she speaks during a campaign rally in Raleigh, N.C., Nov. 8, 2016. VOA
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November 12, 2016: In a telephone call to her campaign donors, Hillary Clinton has blamed FBI Director James Comey for her defeat in the U.S. presidential election, saying his reopening of a probe into her use of a private email server broke the momentum of her campaign.

Nearly every national opinion poll showed Democrat Clinton leading Republican challenger Donald Trump in the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s election, but he scored surprising wins across the country when vote counting began, and claimed victory less than 12 hours after most polls closed.

Clinton told donors Saturday that a review of national opinion polls showed Comey’s letter to Congress about new email discoveries, made public just 11 days before the election, was a bombshell development that proved too much to “overcome.”

Former President Bill Clinton applauds as his wife, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks in New York where she conceded her defeat to Republican Donald Trump after the hard-fought presidential election, Nov. 9, 2016. VOA
Former President Bill Clinton applauds as his wife, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks in New York where she conceded her defeat to Republican Donald Trump after the hard-fought presidential election, Nov. 9, 2016. VOA

Three people who took part in Clinton’s telephonic conference recounted her analysis of the election outcome, the Reuters news agency reported.

First detailed Clinton comment

Clinton’s conversation with her supporters Saturday was the first time she has discussed in detail the outcome of her unsuccessful campaign. She has kept a low profile since conceding the election to Trump in a speech to her supporters and staff in New York City on Wednesday morning.

Comey said in a letter to lawmakers on October 28 that he was revisiting an investigation into whether Clinton mishandled classified information by using a private email server instead of government computers while she was secretary of state from 2009 to 2012. The new investigation, Comey said, was necessary because his agents had discovered additional emails that could be relevant to the case.

He was referring to the FBI’s accidental discovery of 650,000 Clinton emails during an unconnected investigation into potentially criminal activities by the now-estranged husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin. The emails were on a laptop computer used by both Abedin and her husband, former Congressman Anthony Weiner.

Critics denounce Comey’s timing

Comey’s letter to congressional leaders contained few details about the newly discovered emails, which heightened media speculation. Sources with knowledge about the case suggested the emails were mostly or entirely copies of documents that the FBI had already reviewed, but Comey’s highly unusual and cryptic announcement threw the final week of the presidential campaign into turmoil.

FILE - FBI Director James Comey testifies before a House Homeland Security Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, US, July 14, 2016. VOA
FILE – FBI Director James Comey testifies before a House Homeland Security Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, US, July 14, 2016. VOA

Clinton’s defenders assailed the FBI director for disrupting the campaign by making his unexpected announcement without providing further information. A fuller disclosure, they said, would have exonerated the former secretary of state from any suggestion that she acted improperly.

Clinton’s opponents seized on the late-breaking FBI announcement and declared once again that they believed this could be evidence incriminating her. However, even some prominent members of the Republican Party rebuked Comey for inappropriately intruding into the presidential campaign and acting more like a prosecutor than an investigator.

Clinton cleared, but damage done

Nine days after disclosing his letter to Congress, Comey spoke out again, saying that his agents’ intensive study of the new emails showed no wrongdoing by Clinton, and thus there would be no change in his announcement more than three months earlier that she would not face any charges in connection with her handling of official email.

However, the political damage appeared to have been done.

Even though she was absolved of blame, Clinton said, the FBI director’s remarks eroded her support in the upper Midwest, in states such as Wisconsin and Michigan, which often are called a “blue wall” of support for Democratic presidential candidates.

A spokesperson for the FBI could not immediately be reached for comment, Reuters reported.

Trump’s unexpected victory in both Wisconsin and Michigan on Tuesday was a key part of his stunning defeat of Clinton, which shocked the nation and has since led to a series of anti-Trump protests by young activists in many cities. (VOA)

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Online Trolls Exposed By FBI Task Force

FBI officials have provided top social media and technology companies with several classified briefings so far this year, sharing “specific threat indicators and account information, and a variety of other pieces of information so that they can better monitor their own platforms.”

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FBI Director Christopher Wray
FBI Director Christopher Wray speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House. VOA

The FBI’s new foreign influence task force is sharing information about online trolls with technology companies as part of the bureau’s behind-the-scenes effort to disrupt Russian and other foreign influence operations aimed at U.S. elections, FBI and Justice Department officials say.

FBI Director Christopher Wray set up the task force last November as part of a broader government approach to counter foreign influence operations and to prevent a repeat of Russian meddling in the 2018 midterm and the 2020 presidential elections.

The U.S. intelligence community concluded last year that Russia tried to interfere in the 2016 election in part by orchestrating a massive social media campaign aimed at swaying American public opinion and sowing discord.

“Technology companies have a front-line responsibility to secure their own networks, products and platforms,” Wray said. “But we’re doing our part by providing actionable intelligence to better enable them to address abuse of their platforms by foreign actors.”

He said FBI officials have provided top social media and technology companies with several classified briefings so far this year, sharing “specific threat indicators and account information, and a variety of other pieces of information so that they can better monitor their own platforms.”

Adam Hickey, deputy assistant attorney general of the National Security Division at the Justice Department,
Adam Hickey, deputy assistant attorney general of the National Security Division at the Justice Department, testifies on Capitol Hill. VOA

FBI expertise

The task force works with personnel in all 56 FBI field offices and “brings together the FBI’s expertise across the waterfront — counterintelligence, cyber, criminal and even counterterrorism — to root out and respond to foreign influence operations,” Wray said at a White House briefing.

Adam Hickey, a deputy assistant attorney general, said on Monday that the FBI’s unpublicized sharing of information with the social media companies is a “key component” of the Justice Department’s to counter covert foreign influence efforts.

“It is those providers who bear the primary responsibility for securing their own products and platforms,” Hickey said this week at MisinfoCon, an annual conference on misinformation held in Washington, D.C.

“By sharing information with them, especially about who certain users and account holders actually are, we can assist their own, voluntary initiatives to track foreign influence activity and to enforce their own terms of service,” Hickey said.

 Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats testifies on worldwide threats during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill. VOA

The comments come as top U.S. security officials from Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats on down warned about continued attempts by Russia and potentially others to disrupt the November midterm elections.

Coats said on Friday that U.S. intelligence agencies continue “to see a pervasive message campaign” by Russia, while Wray said Moscow “continues to engage in malign influence operations to this day.”

But the officials and social media company executives say the ongoing misinformation campaign does not reach the unprecedented levels seen during the 2016 election.

Hickey, of the Justice Department’s national security division, said that the agency doesn’t often “expose and attribute” ongoing foreign influence operations partly to protect the investigations, methods and sources, and partly “to avoid even the appearance of partiality.”

The logo for Twitter is displayed above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. VOA
The logo for Twitter is displayed above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. VOA

Social media, technology companies

Social media and technology companies, widely criticized for their role in allowing Russian operatives to use their platforms during the 2016 election, have taken steps over the past year to crack down on misinformation.

In June, Twitter announced new measures to fight abuse and trolls, saying it is focused on “developing machine learning tools that identify and take action on networks of spammy or automated accounts automatically.”

In April, Facebook announced that it had taken down 135 Facebook and Instagram accounts and 138 Facebook pages linked to the Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll farm indicted in February for orchestrating Russia’s social media operations in 2016.

The company did not say whether it had removed the pages and accounts based on information provided by the FBI.

Monika Bickert, head of Facebook’s product policy and counterterrorism, told an audience at the Aspen Security Forum last month that the social network has moved to shield its users against fake information by deploying artificial intelligence tools that detect fake accounts and instituting transparency in advertising requirements.

Tom Burt, vice president for customer security and trust at Microsoft, speaking at the same event, disclosed that the company had worked with law enforcement earlier this year to foil a Russian attempt to hack the campaigns of three candidates running for office in the midterm elections.

He did not identify the candidates by name but said they “were all people who, because of their positions, might have been interesting targets from an espionage standpoint, as well as an election disruption standpoint.”

Sen. Claire McCaskill
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., asks a question during a Senate Finance Committee hearing in Washington. VOA

Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri confirmed late last month that Russian hackers tried unsuccessfully to infiltrate her Senate computer network, raising questions about the extent to which Russia will try to interfere in the 2018 elections.

Wray stressed that the influence operations are not “an election cycle threat.”

Also Read: Home Router Devices Were Compromised By Foreign Hackers Says FBI

“Our adversaries are trying to undermine our country on a persistent and regular basis, whether it’s election season or not,” he said. (VOA)