Off the record: Obama reportedly blamed Comey, Bill and Hillary Clinton for Trump’s 2016 victory

In what must be a stitch in former President Barack Obama’s side, a Freedom of Information request was granted and Bloomberg received a cache of documents from the Justice Department. Among them was an off-the-record transcript of Obama in a roundtable conversation with progressive opinion journalists on Jan 17, 2017, just 3 days before he left office.

As Bloomberg’s Jason Leopold reported, Obama referred to the 2016 election loss during the discussion and wondered about what might have been if only Bill and Hillary had made “different decisions.”

Interestingly, Leopold notes that he hadn’t asked for this transcript specifically. Could it have been a little bit of internal treachery that caused its release?

Answering a question about his concern for the future, Obama stated, “My actual views are not wildly far off from what I’ve said publicly. I’ve tempered my language and tried to be diplomatic about it. I am a genuine optimist in the sense that, number one, I think it’s important for us not to ignore the multiple contingencies that resulted in Trump being elected and not somehow suggest that the country is invariably racist, misogynist, what have you.”

It is absolutely fascinating to hear Obama off the record like this. It really sounds different. It sounds like honesty. It feels weird. When the cameras rolled and he was on the record, it was lying time for Obama. Turn them off and you might get some real perspective.

So, what are the contingencies Obama was referring to? He continued:

“Setting aside that Hillary Clinton got the substantially bigger share of the vote, I think it’s fair to say that a whole series of different things happening — how the email thing unfolded, and sort of the chain from Bill Clinton getting on that plane, to Comey making an announcement. At a bunch of different junctures, people could have made different decisions that would have resulted in it playing differently.”


Notice there was no talk of Russian interference whatsoever. Obama basically told journalists that the losers were to blame for losing, and yet those journalists would go out for the next four years and call Trump a racist and a misogynist. And they would run story after story about the myth of Russian interference and Trump’s evil collusion with Putin.

The three problems for Hillary were detailed here by the former president.

  • Hillary Clinton’s scandal with the illegal private server she kept in her home, and her deleting of thousands of emails relevant to an open FBI investigation.
  • Bill Clinton’s June 2016 meeting with then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch on a Phoenix airport tarmac, during that investigation by Lynch’s Justice Department. The likelihood that Bill was being honest when he claimed the conversation centered on grandkids and golf seemed to be less than .1%.
  • FBI Director James Comey’s decision to hold a July 2016 press conference where he asserted that Hillary had been “extremely careless in [her] handling of very sensitive, highly classified information” but incredibly claimed that she had committed no crimes. “No reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case,” he said. The case was briefly reopened when some of a large number of her deleted emails were found on disgraced former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s laptop.


After those three references, there was, in fact, a mention of Russia – the July 2016 leak of DNC emails, apparently by Russian intelligence.

“I think the Russian leaks, how that played out, how all this stuff was reported — I mean, I’m just being honest with you, and many of you share this view. You guys weren’t necessarily the culprits, but how that played out,” said Obama.

The former president also pointed at faulty polling.

“Some failures of polling and analytics leading a leading Democratic candidate never to appear in Michigan or Wisconsin, or show up in a union hall, right? I mean, there’s just a bunch of stuff that could have happened in which we wouldn’t be having this particular conversation,” he said.

In another fascinating turn, Obama tried to quell the fears of the reporters around the table, who worried about the undoing of Obamacare and other legacy achievements (though it’s hard to think of any).

“I think that four years is okay. Take on some water, but we can kind of bail fast enough to be okay. Eight years would be a problem. I would be concerned about a sustained period in which some of these norms have broken down and started to corrode.”

Extremely prescient analysis. They took on water, indeed. But they bailed harder and faster than any bailer ever bailed. And we paid a high price when they got rid of the orange man in the most nefarious ways a nefario can nefariize.


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