Hillary Clinton on Saturday cast blame for her surprise election loss on the announcement by the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, days before the election that he had revived the inquiry into her use of a private email server.
In her most extensive remarks since she conceded the race to Donald J. Trump early Wednesday, Mrs. Clinton told donors on a 30-minute conference call that Mr. Comey’s decision to send a letter to Congress about the inquiry 11 days before Election Day had thrust the controversy back into the news and had prevented her from ending the campaign with an optimistic closing argument.
“There are lots of reasons why an election like this is not successful,” Mrs. Clinton said, according to a donor who relayed the remarks. But, she added, “our analysis is that Comey’s letter raising doubts that were groundless, baseless, proven to be, stopped our momentum.”
Mrs. Clinton said a second letter from Mr. Comey, clearing her once again, which came two days before Election Day, had been even more damaging. In that letter, Mr. Comey said an examination of a new trove of emails, which had been found on the computer of Anthony D. Weiner, the estranged husband of one of her top aides, did not cause him to change his earlier conclusion that Mrs. Clinton should face no charges over her handling of classified information.
Her campaign said the seemingly positive outcome had only hurt it with voters who did not trust Mrs. Clinton and were receptive to Mr. Trump’s claims of a “rigged system.” In particular, white suburban women who had been on the fence were reminded of the email imbroglio and broke decidedly in Mr. Trump’s favor, aides said.
After leading in polls in many battleground states, Mrs. Clinton told the donors on Saturday, “we dropped, and we had to keep really pushing to regain our advantage, which going into last weekend we had.”
“We were once again up in all but two of the battleground states, and we were up considerably in some that we ended up losing,” said Mrs. Clinton, whose tone was described by a donor as stoic. “And we were feeling like we had to put it back together.”