“Seven minutes,” Adam Parkhomenko said. “She’ll be here in seven minutes.”
There was no need to explain who “she” is. On Monday night, attorney and Clinton family loyalist Lanny Davis was celebrating the release of his book “The Unmaking of the President 2016” at the Georgetown home of former Portugal ambassador Elizabeth Frawley Bagley. Davis signed copy after copy in a room designed to look like a Mediterranean courtyard; Hillary Clinton herself was en route.
When she arrived — seven quick minutes after Parkhomenko, a lifelong Clinton campaigner, had promised — Clinton could hardly get past the foyer. For 10 minutes, the former presidential candidate took photos, caught up with friends and posed for the day’s second round of selfies. (She’d spoken at Georgetown University earlier in the day.)
“Going back to law school, I remember your focus on the word: facts,” Davis said. “Every time I do a television appearance, all through the years, I learned from Hillary Rodham Clinton — facts, facts, facts.”
Clinton worked slowly through the crowd, to the living room, where she took a seat next to an enlarged cover of a book subtitled “How FBI Director James Comey Cost Hillary Clinton the Presidency.”
“It’s probably the most depressing book I’ve ever read in my life,” said Bagley, quieting the crowd so Davis could speak. “The outcome is devastating. It’s really important. It will be a piece of history. It’s something we need to have.”
Clinton did not speak, but her opinion of Davis’s thesis was well known. In “What Happened,” her best-selling memoir of the campaign, she, too, had concluded that “the Comey letter” — the former FBI director’s October 2016 announcement that emails on Huma Abedin’s laptop were being scoured by investigators — cost her the election.
“Not a single poll, not one by anyone, had anybody but Hillary Clinton being elected president by a substantial margin,” Davis recalled. “Hillary, you’ve acknowledged that you weren’t a perfect candidate. Surprise! Was there ever a perfect candidate?”
For the next 20 minutes, Clinton sat and listened as Davis recounted the pre-Comey RealClearPolitics average of polls (“bigger than Barack Obama’s margin over Mitt Romney”), the email probe (“33-thousand emails and not one identified as classified”), and a Harvard study on how the negative coverage affected the election.
“I had Democratic friends who said: ‘I don’t want to go through it with a president under criminal investigation!’ ” Davis said. “Criminal investigation!”
Clinton maintained a poker face, smiling thinly and reacting — finding a friendly face in the crowd and bugging out her eyes — only when Davis said he’d be discussing the book with Fox News host Sean Hannity.
“I said, ‘Sean, you can say I agree with Donald Trump on one thing: James Comey should have been fired,’ ” Davis said. “ ‘By Barack Obama!’ ”
In his remarks, as in the book, Davis wavered on the question of Comey’s character. He questioned the former FBI director’s judgment, he said, but not his motives. After a supporter in the crowd asked whether there was some way “we can still make Hillary president,” Davis went a little further, identifying some “narcissism” in Comey and repeating what a source had told him: that Comey never would have acted had he thought Trump might win.
“If you’re a president of the United States, and you’re elected because of the intervention of an appointed official, violating all the rules, then there’s something illegitimate about the way you were elected,” Davis said. “If you cross red lines about what might or might not be impeachable offenses, there’s one argument that can’t be made — that President Trump was elected by an unimpaired electoral process.”
Davis wrapped up his remarks, explaining that he needed to head to New York to appear on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and kick off his media tour. Clinton headed out, too. As he grabbed his luggage and topcoat, Davis was informed that Comey lived less than a block away from Bagley.
“Should I say, ‘hi?’ ” he said. “You know, he was the one person who I asked for an interview who said no.”