Clinton told FBI that Colin Powell advised her to use private email

Published Aug. 19, 2016

Pressed by the FBI about her email practices at the State Department, Hillary Clinton told investigators that former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell had advised her to use a personal email account

The account is included in the notes the FBI handed over to Congress on Tuesday, relaying in detail the 31/2-hour interview with Clinton in early July that led to the decision by James Comey, the bureau's director, not to pursue criminal charges against her.

Separately, in a 2009 email exchange that also emerged during the FBI questioning, Clinton, who had already decided to use private email, asked Powell about his email practices when he was the nation's top diplomat under George W. Bush, the New York Times reported, citing a person with direct knowledge of Powell's appearance in the documents, who would not speak for attribution.

The journalist Joe Conason first reported the conversation between Clinton and Powell in his coming book about Bill Clinton's postpresidency, Man of the World: The Further Endeavors of Bill Clinton, which the New York Times received an advanced copy of.

Conason describes a conversation in the early months of 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.

"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."

Conason continued, "Saying that his use of personal email had been transformative for the department," Powell "thus confirmed a decision she had made months earlier — to keep her personal account and use it for most messages."

A longtime defender of the Clintons, Conason interviewed both Hillary and Bill Clinton for the book, a granular account of the years since Bill Clinton left office that will be published on Sept. 13.

Clinton and her campaign have repeatedly pointed to the use of personal email by Powell and other government officials to try to explain the email controversy to voters, but Clinton has not said publicly that Powell personally recommended that she shun the official .gov email system.

In his memoir, It Worked for Me, 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 Clinton's aren't entirely parallel. Powell did not have a server at his house or rely on outside contractors, as Clinton did at her home in Chappaqua, N.Y.

A State Department inspector general report released in May said that Powell and other senior officials had used personal email accounts for official business, but that by the time 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 Clinton's case, the practice has created particular controversy because of her family's foundation and its donors who had varying political and business interests while Clinton was secretary of state. On Thursday, the Clinton Foundation confirmed that it would no longer accept foreign or corporate funds should Clinton win in November.

Although he did not recommend criminal charges, Comey said in July that Clinton's exclusive reliance on a private email address and server had been "extremely careless."

The State Department has asked to review the notes from Clinton's session with the FBI 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 Clinton's campaign.

"We believe that if these materials are going to be shared outside the Justice Department," said Brian Fallon, a spokesman for the campaign, "they should be released widely so that the public can see them for themselves."