WASHINGTON ― House Democrats on Wednesday released a 2009 email exchange in which former Secretary of State Colin Powell explained to Hillary Clinton how he used his personal email while he was at the State Department.
Clinton told the FBI about the exchange during the agency’s investigation of her handling of sensitive information on her private email server.
“Be very careful. I got around it all by not saying much and not using systems that captured the data,” Powell told her.
The full exchange illuminates how Powell avoided using State Department servers during his time in office and reveals that he used his personal account to do business with foreign leaders.
“I didn’t have a BlackBerry. What I did do was have a personal computer that was hooked up to a private phone line (sounds ancient.) So I could communicate with a wide range of friends directly without it going through the State Department servers,” he wrote to Clinton. “I even used it to do business with some foreign leaders and some of the senior folks in the Department on their personal email accounts. I did the same thing on the road in hotels.”
Powell also said that security officials were never able to explain to him why he couldn’t use his personal digital assistant in a secure area.
Powell’s email came after Clinton wrote to him asking for advice on using a BlackBerry while at State. She noted that President Barack Obama had successfully fought to keep his BlackBerry when he entered office.
“What were the restrictions on your use of your blackberry? Did you use it in your personal office? I’ve been told that the DSS personnel knew you had one and used it but no one fesses up to knowing how you used it!,” she wrote. “President Obama has struck a blow for berry addicts like us. I just have to figure out how to bring along the State Dept. Any and all advice is welcome.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said the exchange clearly showed Powell advising Clinton on how to get around record-preservation rules.
“This email exchange shows that Secretary Powell advised Secretary Clinton with a detailed blueprint on how to skirt security rules and bypass requirements to preserve federal records, although Secretary Clinton has made clear that she did not rely on this advice,” he said in a statement.
Clinton told the FBI that Powell’s note didn’t factor into her decision to use a private server, but has defended her use of private email by noting that Powell used it as well while at State. Powell has said that he thought Clinton’s campaign was trying to pin her use of private email on him.
Read the full letter below: