In August 2016, the New York Times will publish an article based on a claim by former Salon reporter Joe Conason about an incident that occurred at a dinner party in June 2009, during Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state. Conason will have recently interviewed Hillary Clinton for a book he is writing about Bill Clinton, and he may have heard about the incident through her.
From left to right, Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell and Hillary Clinton participate in the ceremonial groundbreaking of the future U.S. Diplomacy Center on September 3, 2014. (Credit: Jonathan Ernst / Getty Images)
The party is hosted by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and several other former secretary of states are also in attendance: Colin Powell, Henry Kissinger, Condoleezza Rice, and William Christopher.
Conason will claim that, “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.” (New York Times, 08/18/16)
Clinton will also tell a similar story in her July 2016 FBI interview. NBC News journalist Andrea Mitchell will report, “Clinton told the FBI that former Secretary of State Colin Powell recommended on two occasions that she use a private email account for unclassified communication.”
Drawing from Conason’s original report, Mitchell will write, “Powell made the suggestions at a small dinner party shortly after Clinton took over at the State Department in 2009 and in an email exchange around the same time.” Two sources later confirm to NBC News that Clinton gave that account to investigators during her FBI interview. (NBC News, 08/19/2016)
In a January 2009 email, Powell warned her that should that become “public,” her emails would become “official record[s] and subject to the law.” “Be very careful. I got around it all by not saying much and not using systems that captured the data.”
Clinton said that Powell’s comments did not factor into her decision to use a personal email address. (Federal Bureau of Investigations (09/02/16)
However, Powell will later claim he doesn’t recall Albright even asking that question, but he does remember an email exchange with Clinton on January 23, 2009. Conason appears to be confusing the email with the dinner party.
Colin Powell’s emails will be hacked and released to the public September 13, 2016. The email leak will include an exchange between Powell and Rice on August 28, 2016. Powell will write, “I was [with] Maddy [Madeline Albright] the other evening and she doesn’t remember an email conversation or even asking us a question recently.”
Rice will write back, ” Yes — I’m sure it never came up.”
Thus, the alleged Albright question at her party, and Powell’s reply, may never have happened at all. Though Clinton will say it did, Albright, Rice, and Powell will say it did not.