Ah, leadership — the ability to grasp failures, arch one’s back … and blame someone else for them. Hillary Clinton has used the “Colin Powell did it” line ever since the e-mail scandal broke eighteen months ago, even though it’s not actually true. In her FBI interview, the New York Times reports today, Hillary went even further by claiming that Powell told her to use private e-mail for official business:
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.
Let’s walk this back one step at a time. 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 SecState, Madeline Albright:
“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,” Mr. 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.”
Mr. Conason continued, “Saying that his use of personal email had been transformative for the department,” Mr. Powell “thus confirmed a decision she had made months earlier — to keep her personal account and use it for most messages.”
Actually, she used it for all messages, not most. Hillary never got or used an official State Department e-mail account. That is one contrast to Powell; he didn’t routinely use private e-mail for classified work, but instead used the secure State Department system. The reason he used his private e-mail at that time was because State didn’t yet have a central unclassified e-mail system — an issue that had long been resolved in the four years between the tenures of Powell and Hillary at State.
Powell objected to Hillary’s characterization in a statement this morning:
Finally, Powell didn’t set up a server in his house for his official communications. He used a commercially available service for his e-mails, and disclosed his use of it widely — even including it in his memoirs. Hillary hid the existence of this system, allowing her to duck legitimate Congressional and judicial oversight into the State Department. She never disclosed the existence of this secret and unauthorized system until the House Select Committee on Benghazi discovered it during their probe. Ever since, she has lied repeatedly about the system and its use, at least until the FBI showed up to interview her about it — and this demonstrates that she was less than truthful with them, too.
Now she wants to pass the buck to Colin Powell for the decisions she made. It’s shameless, pusillanimous, and a true indication of the kind of leadership we’ll see over the next four years if Hillary Clinton wins the election.
Addendum: The Morning Joe team drew the contrast in a graphic tweeted out this morning:
Clinton vs. Powell's use of email pic.twitter.com/KtRklq3KUm
— Morning Joe (@Morning_Joe) August 19, 2016