There is an interesting twist in the Clinton email scandal. One of the most surprising elements of Hillary Clinton’s statements to the FBI was her insistence that it was former Secretary of State Colin Powell who convinced her to use a private email server. Clinton told investigators that Powell not only advised her to use a private email system but made it his one piece of advice when prompted by a third former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright. Now, Powell has come out with a seemingly angry denial of the account and has said that Clinton’s “people have been trying to pin it on me.”
Clinton used this rationale with the FBI and it has apparently been raised by Clinton aides and close supporters. Author Joe Conason is viewed as a close ally of Clinton’s and wrote in his book, “Man of the World: The Further Endeavors of Bill Clinton” recounted the dinner with former secretaries:
“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. 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 … [Powell] confirmed a decision she had made months earlier – to keep her personal account and use it for most messages.”
Powell has responded that he has absolutely no recollection of such a statement to Clinton and that the system in place at the State Department did not exist when he was Secretary. His office said that “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.” However, Powell recently added that “The truth is, she was using [the private email server] for a year before I sent her a memo telling her what I did.”
One of the most common mistakes in Washington for high-level targets is to trip the wire under 18 U.S.C. 1001 in making false statements to federal investigators. Such contradictions can raise that concern but it is likely not a significant risk in this case. The FBI director was clearly not inclined to charge Clinton and this can be answered as simply a difference in recollection of a fact that was not critical to the underlying alleged violations. The Powell story is of more political than legal benefit for Clinton.
What do you think?