As noted here yesterday, Hillary Clinton and her apologists have been pointing the finger of blame at Colin Powell as the inspiration for her unprecedented use of a private, unauthorized email server for her government correspondence.

One pithy reader summed up the Clinton strategy thus:

But Colin Powell’s gentle push-back of this oft-repeated talking point seems to have implicated Ms. Clinton in a rand new federal crime: Lying to the FBI.

Let’s start with Friday’s revelation that Clinton used the “Powell Excuse” in her interview with federal agents in July.

Pressed by the F.B.I. 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 Federal Bureau of Investigation 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.

As Ed pointed out on Friday, the suggestion that Clinton was inspired by advice from Powell doesn’t square with the timeline:

According to an upcoming book from Joe Conason, Hillary had already started her tenure as Secretary of State when the conversation occurred — months after setting up the private e-mail server and refusing an official State Department account. The conversation took place at a dinner party that also included another former Sec State, Madeline Albright.

And Powell’s declaration to reporters Saturday that he was tired of Clinton’s people have been “trying to pin” the email scandal on him and that she “was using [the private email server] for a year before (he) sent her a memo telling her what (he) did,” contradicts Mrs. Clinton’s statements to the FBI in which she claimed the exact opposite.

Giving false information (lying) to an FBI agent is a federal crime. Mrs. Clinton told the FBI (according to the FBI notes) that she used private email at the advice of Colin Powell and Colin Powell says she was using the private email for a year before he sent her information on his practices.

Normally, FBI investigators would follow-up on claims made by the target of their investigation to see if their version of events squares with other testimony they’ve gathered during the course of the investigation. Clearly that did not happen here. In fact, FBI Director James Comey gave Clinton a clean bill of criminal health just a couple of days after her interview with investigators.

Why didn’t they square her story up with Powell’s version of the events?  Isn’t the origin of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server relevant to the criminal intent question?

If Clinton was advised by a former Secretary of State to use private emails it would suggest that the practice was intended to be an innocent solution to the inconvenience of having multiple accounts at once.  If she misled investigators about the origin story of her server, what actual — perhaps not so innocent — reason is she hiding? And if she is lying to federal investigators about the original reason for the private email server, doesn’t that show her intent may not have been so innocent?

Of course, all of these tangential questions regarding why she might be lying to federal investigators are irrelevant. The mere fact that she gave false information is a crime, in and of itself. Just ask Scooter Libby.

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