The New York Times reports that Clinton mentioned this when she was interviewed by the FBI in July 2016. This account was included in the FBI’s notes about Clinton’s interview which was given to Congress on August 16, 2016. The content of notes are meant to be classified, but apparently someone in Congress leaked this account to the media.
In addition, the account is mentioned in an upcoming book about Bill Clinton written by journalist Joe Conason, who the Times calls “a longtime defender of the Clintons.”
According to Conason, the conversation took place in early 2009, several months after Clinton became secretary of state, and after she had already set up a private email server and was using a private email account for all her email communications. Clinton was at a dinner party hosted by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, which was also attended by former secretaries of state Colin Powell, Henry Kissinger, and Condoleezza Rice.
Former Secretaries of State (from left to right), Henry Kissinger James Baker, Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry attend a ceremony at the State Department in Washington, D.C., on September 3, 2014. (Credit: Jonathan Ernst / Reuters)
Conason writes, “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 [Clinton]. 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. Saying that his use of personal email had been transformative for the department, he thus confirmed a decision she had made months earlier — to keep her personal account and use it for most messages.”
Additionally, Powell repeated the same advice in an email sent to Clinton around the same time, and after Clinton had already decided to use private email. Powell tells the Times that he has no recollection of the dinner conversation, but he does confirm sending an email giving that advice.
However, the Times notes that the situations between when Powell was secretary of state and when Clinton was had significant differences. When Powell took over the State Department, it did not have a computer system for sending unclassified emails. But such a system was set up by the time Clinton took over in 2009. Additionally, the department rules changed, prohibiting the use of a private email account as anyone’s main mode of email communication. Furthermore, Powell used the AOL (AmericaOnline) email service, which kept back-up copies of all emails, while Clinton used her own private server, which meant nobody kept backups except her. (The New York Times, 8/18/2016) (NBC News, 8/19/2016)