US hacking claims: Clinton blames Russia and FBI boss for loss

Former US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has for the first time attributed her election defeat to Russian hacking.

She told party donors that President Putin had a “personal beef” against her for describing Russia’s parliamentary elections five years ago as rigged.

She also cited the release of a letter by FBI director James Comey as having lost her close races in key states.

Meanwhile, the FBI has backed a CIA assessment of Russian intervention.

In a message to employees, seen by US media, CIA Director John Brennan said he had met Mr Comey and US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and there was “strong consensus among us on the scope, nature, and intent of Russian interference in our presidential election”.

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Russia has been accused of hacking the emails of the Democratic Party and a key Hillary Clinton aide, which the Kremlin strongly denies.

The New York Times said Mrs Clinton’s comments were her first on the subject since widespread reports of the hacking surfaced before the election.

“Putin publicly blamed me for the outpouring of outrage by his own people, and that is the direct line between what he said back then and what he did in this election,” Mrs Clinton said, quoted by the Times.

“This is not just an attack on me and my campaign, although that may have added fuel to it. This is an attack against our country. We are well beyond normal political concerns here. This is about the integrity of our democracy and the security of our nation.”

On Friday, President Barack Obama used his last news conference of the year to defend his handling of the hacking allegations.

He said that, at the time, he did not mention any motives for the alleged hacking in order not to prejudice the integrity of the election.

On Thursday, a White House spokesman said President Vladimir Putin was involved in the cyber-attacks.

At his conference, Mr Obama said he spoke to Mr Putin during a summit in September, telling him to “cut it out” and warning of consequences if it continued – but did not say what the response might be.

The leaking of emails embarrassed the Democratic Party at a crucial point in the election campaign.

The CIA says Russia’s motivation was to sway the election in favour of Republican President-elect Donald Trump, but no evidence has been made public.

Mr Trump has also dismissed the claim as “ridiculous” and politically motivated.

Mr Comey made headlines when he announced a new inquiry into Mrs Clinton’s email server 11 days before the presidential election. The matter was dropped two days before Americans voted.

The FBI had previously concluded that Mrs Clinton had been “extremely careless” over her use of a private email server while secretary of state, but there were no grounds for any charges.



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