Former Secretary of State Colin Powell issued an unmistakable warning last year to senior Hillary Clinton aides not to drag him into the burgeoning scandal involving her use of a private email server, according to an email released Friday by WikiLeaks.
“Cheryl, Good talking to you. See link. You really don't want to get me into this. I haven't been asked nor said a word about HRC and won't unless you all start it,” Powell wrote to Clinton’s personal attorney Cheryl Mills.
Mills then forwarded the March 7, 2015 email to Clinton's now-Campaign Chairman John Podesta and other associates with a suggestion to “see below as reminder of early conversation.”
The email, hacked from Podesta's personal account, included a link to a Breitbart report on attempts to protect Clinton by stoking an email scandal for Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. The article noted it is a “trick attempted with carping about former Secretary of State Colin Powell” and his use of a personal email account when he was secretary of state.
The warning from Powell came at a time when the Clinton campaign and State Department were struggling to respond to the revelation that Clinton had used a private server in her residence for official business.
Clinton would make her first formal comments on the scandal in a March 10, 2015 press conference at the United Nations.
A day later, Powell declined to comment on the Clinton controversy, telling ABC News’ George Stephanopolous that it “would be inappropriate.”
Campaign Manager Robby Mook noted that same morning that Powell’s no comment “strengthens our case.”
While the Powell warning note had not been published before, it is no secret he did not want the Clinton campaign to drag him into the email controversy by equating his use of personal email with her use of a special private server.
The Intercept previously reported that in an Aug. 28, 2016 email, Powell wrote to a friend that Clinton “could have killed this two years ago by merely telling everyone honestly what she had done and not tie me to it.”
“I told her staff three times not to try that gambit. I had to throw a mini tantrum at a Hampton’s [sic] party to get their attention. She keeps tripping into these ‘character’ minefields,” Powell added.
Powell had previously accused Clinton of trying to “pin” the scandal on him after Clinton told authorities in July that Powell had detailed to her his email practices as secretary of state under George W. Bush, according to a New York Times report in August.
The paper cited a passage from a book about Bill Clinton’s post-presidency that read, "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."
But Powell did not have a private server -- and officials would later find hundreds of emails with classified material from Clinton's server.
Despite the tensions between them, Powell nevertheless endorsed Clinton in October.