NEW YORK • Mrs Hillary Clinton has cast blame for her surprise election loss on the announcement by FBI director James Comey days before the election that he had revived the inquiry into her use of a private e-mail server.
In her most extensive remarks since she conceded the race to Republican Donald Trump early on Wednesday, Mrs Clinton told donors on a 30-minute conference call on Saturday 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 prevented her from ending the campaign with an optimistic closing argument, The New York Times reported.
"There are lots of reasons why an election like this is not successful," she said, according to a donor who relayed the remarks. "(But) our analysis is that Comey's letter raising doubts that were groundless, baseless... stopped our momentum."
Mrs Clinton said a second letter from Mr Comey, clearing her once again, two days before Election Day, had been even more damaging, The New York Times said.
In that letter, he said an examination of a new trove of e-mails, which had been found on the computer of Mr Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of one of her top aides Huma Abedin, had not caused him to change his earlier conclusion that Mrs Clinton should face no charges over her handling of classified information as secretary of state.
Among voters who did not trust Mrs Clinton and were receptive to Mr Trump's claims of a "rigged system", the seemingly positive outcome had only hurt the campaign.
Undecided white suburban women, in particular, were reminded of the e-mail imbroglio and broke decidedly in his favour, Clinton campaign aides said.
After leading in polls in many battleground states, "we dropped, and we had to keep really pushing to regain our advantage - which going into last weekend, we had," said Mrs Clinton on Saturday.
"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," she said.
In the end, Mrs Clinton lost narrowly in several battleground states, although she appeared poised to win the popular vote by more than two million by the time all ballots were counted.
"I am heartbroken," she said on Saturday, the Washington Post reported. "I am not going to pretend otherwise. This is a very, very tough loss and especially because everyone worked so hard."
Despite the pain of Mrs Clinton's electoral loss, some Democrats are seeing a chance to start their party anew with a clean slate and free of the Clintons' stranglehold, the Financial Times reported.
"I see a lot of silver lining in this," a former employee in the Bill Clinton administration was quoted as saying. "It is good for us to let go of that stranglehold."
He added: "We're going to start with a very clean slate."
While many in the Democratic camp blamed Mr Comey for their candidate's defeat, others rejected the suggestion, the Financial Times said.
"Anyone blaming Comey is kidding themselves," said Mr Matt Bennett, co-founder of the Democratic think-tank Third Way.
"It wasn't Comey. It was anger at government and anger at the party of government that she (Clinton) represented and this desire to express this anger as aggressively as possible."
As Democrats set about rebuilding their party, those who are seen as the future of the party include Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who lost to Mrs Clinton in the primary races; Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren; and Mr Julian Castro, President Barack Obama's secretary of housing and urban development.