Hillary Clinton reportedly told the FBI that former Secretary of State Colin Powell had advised her to use a personal email account. The account was included in the notes detailing Clinton's three-and-a-half-hour interview that the FBI handed over to Congress on Tuesday, 15 August.
Journalist Joe Conason, who first reported the conversation between Clinton and Powell in his upcoming book "Man of the World: The Further Endeavors of Bill Clinton," said the chat occurred early in Clinton's tenure as secretary of state, during a small dinner party hosted by fellow former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Henry Kissinger and Condoleezza Rice were also present during the dinner.
"Toward the end of the evening, over dessert, Albright asked all of the former secretaries to officer one salient bit of counsel to the nation's next top diplomat," Conason wrote. "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."
Conason added: "Saying that his use of personal email had been transformative for the department," Powell "thus confirmed a decision she had made months earlier—to keep her personal account and use it for most messages."
The Times noted that Conason has been a "longtime defender of the Clintons".
According to The New York Times, a separate 2009 email exchange shows Clinton asking Powell about his email practices when he held the position during the administration of George W Bush.
In a statement released Thursday (18 August), Powell's office confirmed the email exchange in which he described his use of personal email account for unclassified messages "and how it vastly improved communications within the State Department". However, Powell's office said he had no recollection of the dinner conversation.
Powell has discussed his use of personal email and cited it as his attempt to advance the technology practices at the State Department, the Times reported. However, while Powell used personal email, he did not have a server at his home or rely on outside contractors as Clinton did.
A State Department Inspector General report in May acknowledge Powell and others' use of personal email accounts for official business but noted that when Clinton joined the department, the use of a private server was neither allowed nor encouraged due to "significant security risks."
Clinton has repeatedly cited Powell and other senior officials' use of private email in an attempt to explain the controversy to voters. The Times reported that she has not publicly stated that Powell personally recommended she use a private account.
Following an investigation, the FBI decided not to pursue criminal charges against her. However, the State Department announced in July that it would reopen the investigation into the emails to determine whether current or former employees mishandled classified information.