When FBI Director James Comey said on July 5, 2016, that “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring a criminal case against Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server but that her behavior was “extremely careless,” the candidate was particularly bothered by the second part of his statement.
“My first instinct was that my campaign should hit back hard and explain to the public that Comey had badly overstepped his bounds—the same argument [Deputy Attorney General] Rod Rosenstein would make months after the election,” Clinton writes in her forthcoming book, What Happened, a copy of which was obtained and read by The Daily Beast. “That might have blunted the political damage and made Comey think twice before breaking protocol again a few months later. My team raised concerns with that kind of confrontational approach. In the end, we decided it would be better to just let it go and try to move on. Looking back, that was a mistake.”
When Clinton describes Comey’s last-minute announcement in October about the discovery of what appeared to be additional emails in the final days of the campaign, she writes about him with even more malice.
“Was this a bad joke?” she writes. “It had to be. “The FBI wasn’t the Federal Bureau of IFs or Innuendos. Its job was to find out the facts. What the hell was Comey doing?”
Upon learning more about the news, and its link to disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner, his wife and close Clinton adviser Huma Abedin burst into tears, Clinton writes.
“When we heard this, Huma looked stricken,” she writes. “Anthony had already caused so much heartache. And now this.”
“‘This man is going to be the death of me,’ [Abedin] said, bursting into tears.”
Much of What Happened, which is slated for release Sept. 12, is made up of similar reflections, with Clinton at times acutely aware of mistakes she made in the campaign. At other times she appears increasingly frustrated by a mounting series of external factors (Comey, Russia, and even the media) she deems to be out of her control.
It is an exhaustive look at two years in the life of the former secretary of state as she took on a surprisingly strong Democratic primary challenger in Bernie Sanders and an unpredictable, unprecedented candidate in Donald Trump.
When it comes to the latter, Clinton doesn’t pull any punches and describes in vivid detail her difficulty grappling with her shocking election night loss.
“‘Donald, it’s Hillary,’” she writes toward the end of the book describing her concession call. “It was without a doubt one of the strangest moments of my life. I congratulated Trump and offered to do anything I could to make sure the transition was smooth. He said nice things about my family and our campaign. He may have said something about how hard it must have been to make the call, but it’s a blur now, so I can’t say for certain. It was all perfectly nice and weirdly ordinary, like calling a neighbor to say you can’t make it to his barbecue. It was mercifully brief.”
And yet a number of other thoughts raced through her mind on that historic night, including the possibility that Trump could follow through on his campaign promise to put her in jail.
“In my head, I heard the vicious ‘Lock her up!’ chants that had echoed through Trump’s rallies,” Clinton writes. “In our second debate, Trump had said that if he won, he’d send me to prison. Now he had won. I had no idea what to expect.”
Trump, of course, has not made any attempts to do such a thing during his nascent administration. And Clinton ended up attending his inauguration, though “There was a decent chance I’d get booed or be met with ‘Lock her up!’ chants if I went,” she writes.
Clinton begins the new book with the scene of the inauguration, describing just how strange it was to be in attendance and summarizing Trump’s shocking win with the line: “The joke, it turned out, was on us.”
Certain details from her experience there read as additional opportunities to lacerate Trump, including an anecdote, which stretches belief, about ponchos she claims were going to be used.
“I had heard that the first batch of white ponchos that arrived could have looked something like KKK hoods from a certain angle, and a sharp-eyed inaugural organizer quickly replaced them,” Clinton writes.
On the day of the inauguration, former congressman Jason Chaffetz made headlines for posting a photo on Instagram in which he is seen shaking hands with Clinton. The caption read: “So pleased she is not the President. I thanked her for her service and wished her luck. The investigation continues.”
Clinton shares an amusing anecdote about the photo, claiming she wasn’t even sure who Chaffetz was when it was taken.
“We headed up the stairs to leave the platform and go back inside the Capitol, shaking hands along the way,” Clinton writes in the opening chapter. “I saw a man off to the side who I thought was Reince Priebus, head of the Republican National Committee and incoming White House Chief of Staff. As I passed by, we shook hands and exchanged small talk. Later I realized it hadn’t been Priebus at all. It was Jason Chaffetz, the then-Utah Congressman and wannabe Javert who made endless political hay out of my emails and the 2012 tragedy in Benghazi, Libya.”
When she later saw the image he posted, Clinton writes that she “came this close to tweeting back, ‘To be honest, thought you were Reince.’”