For years, president Obama's recurring excuse for the poor performance of the US economy was that it was "Bush's fault." It appears that Hillary Clinton took a page out of the playbook when, pressed by the FBI, she told federal investigators that former Secretary of State Colin Powell suggested she use a personal email account, according to a New York Times report.
The account is among the notes the FBI handed over to Congress on Tuesday, relaying in detail the three-and-a-half-hour interview with Mrs. Clinton in early July that led to the decision by James B. Comey, the bureau’s director, not to pursue criminal charges against her.
The Times also cited an upcoming book by Joe Conason, who first reported the conversation between Clinton and Powell in his soon to be published book about Bill Clinton’s postpresidency, “Man of the World: The Further Endeavors of Bill Clinton" that described a dinner conversation where Powell told Clinton to use her own email. The newspaper also reported that Clinton asked Powell in a 2009 email exchange about his use of email while serving under former president George W. Bush.
A longtime defender of the Clintons, Mr. Conason interviewed both Mr. and Mrs. Clinton for the book, a granular account of the years since Mr. Clinton left office that will be published on Sept. 13. Conason describes a conversation in the early months of Mrs. Clinton’s tenure at the State Department at a small dinner party hosted by Madeleine Albright, another former secretary of state, at her home in Washington. Henry Kissinger and Condoleezza Rice also attended.
However, where the attempt to deflect blame from Hillary and toward Powell fails is the following “Toward the end of the evening, over dessert, Albright asked all of the former secretaries to offer one salient bit of counsel to the nation’s next top diplomat,” Conason writes. “Powell told her to use her own email, as he had done, except for classified communications, which he had sent and received via a State Department computer.”
As is known by now, it was not Hillary's use of a private email account that was the problem, but the fact that she not only sent confidential information, but that she also used a private email server for all communications, that is something that Powell certainly did not advise her of. He also did not, we are convinced, urge her to delete some 30,000 emails, some of which also contained confidential, work-related information and were not, as she claimed, all personal.
Colin Powell's office in a statement said he could not recall the dinner conversation. He did recall describing the system he used to her, but the statement did not say he suggested Clinton do the same. "He did write former Secretary Clinton an email memo describing his use of his personal AOL email account for unclassified messages and how it vastly improved communications within the State Department," the statement said. "At the time there was no equivalent system within the department."
Furthermore, as Reuters notes, Powell has said he had no choice besides using his private account as the department did not have a fully functioning email system of its own when he joined in 2001. He used a secure department computer to manage classified information, the statement said.
By 2009 the State Department had a fully functioning infrastructure, which means any attempts at comparison are quite flawed. Even the NYT admits this:
In his memoir, “It Worked for Me,” Mr. Powell writes about his personal email, and he has taken pride in having tried to advance the antiquated technology practices at the State Department. But his use of personal email and Mrs. Clinton’s aren’t entirely parallel. Mr. Powell did not have a server at his house or rely on outside contractors, as Mrs. Clinton did at her home in Chappaqua, N.Y.
A State Department inspector general report released in May said that Mr. Powell and other senior officials had used personal email accounts for official business, but that by the time Mrs. Clinton took office the rules were clear that using a private server in such a manner was neither allowed nor encouraged because of “significant security risks.”
In retrospect, one can ask what difference does any of this make: after all while saying Clinton’s exclusive reliance on a private email address and server had been “extremely careless", FBI director Comey did not recommend criminal charges.
It remains to be seen if the Clinton family server was hacked as well: so far there have been no disclosed leaks, although much can change in the next three months.
The State Department has asked to review the notes from Mrs. Clinton’s session with the F.B.I. before they are released, in case they include sensitive information. Clinton aides have expressed concerns that in the meantime congressional Republicans will try to leak parts of the materials to hurt Mrs. Clinton’s campaign.