Former Secretary of State Colin Powell over the weekend dismissed reports that Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton told federal investigators that it was at his suggestion that she used a personal email account, according to a media report.
Powell, who served as the nation’s top diplomat under Republican president George W. Bush, told People magazine that while he did send Clinton a memo about his own email practices, Clinton had already chosen to use personal email rather than a government account while she had the job.
Clinton, who faces Republican Donald Trump in the Nov. 8 U.S. presidential election, has been dogged for more than a year about questions over her use of private email account and a personal computer server while she was secretary of state from 2009-2013, during President Barack Obama’s first term.
“Her people have been trying to pin it on me … The truth is, she was using [the private email server] for a year before I sent her a memo telling her what I did,” Powell told People on Saturday.
Last week, the New York Times reported that Clinton told federal investigators probing the issue that Powell, who was secretary of state from 2001 to 2005, had suggested she use personal email for unclassified email when the two spoke over dinner. The conversation occurred “in the early months” of Clinton’s tenure at the State Department, the Times said, citing a forthcoming book by journalist Joe Conason that first reported the dinner exchange.
That revelation came as the Federal Bureau of Investigation last week turned over a number of documents to the U.S. Congress related to its probe into the emails. The FBI recommended against criminal charges for Clinton, but Clinton has been widely criticized by Republicans over the issue.
Representatives for Powell, in a separate statement to NBC news, said he had no recollection of the conversation with Clinton but did write to her about his use of a non-government email address.
“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,” his office told NBC on Friday.
The email exchange occurred in 2009, according to the Times.
Both Powell and his successor in the Bush administration, Condoleezza Rice, received some classified information via personal email accounts, Reuters has reported. Clinton’s additional use of a personal computer server at her home, however, broke State Department rules, an internal watchdog found.
The FBI document release to Congress has riled both Democrats and Republicans. Democrats have expressed concern over the potential for politically motivated leaks by Republicans to target Clinton less than three months before the presidential election.
Republican U.S. House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz told MSNBC on Monday the documents lawmakers received “are overly redacted” and that they are asking for another version with more of the missing information so they can be made public as soon as possible.
(Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Frances Kerry)