A pro-Hillary Clinton author claimed on Tuesday that Colin Powell contradicted himself when he denied remembering a 2009 dinner party conversation in which he offered Hillary Clinton advice about her emails.
But unfortunately for the writer, Joe Conason, a hacker released a trove of Powell’s personal emails late Tuesday which support the retired general’s claims to not remember an email discussion at the dinner party, which was held at former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s home in June 2009.
The leaked emails, which were published by the website DC Leaks and viewed by The Daily Caller, include one in which Powell, a former secretary of state and secretary of defense, claimed Albright herself told him that she did not recall the dinner party discussion detailed in Conason’s book.
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was also at the now-infamous dinner party, also appears to tell Powell in an email that she was “sure” the email issue “never came up.”
While the alleged dinner party exchange had no sway on Clinton’s decision to use a personal email account and server (she had been using her system for months by that time), the dinner party vignette was seen as a vindication of sorts for Clinton.
It showed not only that Clinton’s well-respected predecessor nudged her to use personal email, but that other former secretaries of state were made aware of the arrangement and seemingly raised no objection.
Conason’s claim about the dinner party was reported by The New York Times last month. According to the paper, Conason writes in the book, which is a biography of Bill Clinton and was released Tuesday, that Albright asked all of the former secretaries of state at the party to provide one piece of advice to Clinton.
“Powell suggested that she use her own email,” writes Conason, who interviewed both Clintons for his book.
Powell responded shortly after the article was published, saying that he did not recall the dinner party exchange. Rice also did not remember the exchange, her aide told TheDC. (RELATED: Condi Rice Does Not Recall Dinner Party Email Discussion)
The he-said-she-said would have been the end of the matter, but Conason went further by accusing Powell in an article for Newsweek of giving “a very different answer” several months ago.
Conason, a close friend of Clinton adviser Sidney Blumenthal, then quoted from an email exchange he had with Powell’s assistant, Peggy Cifrino, which he said showed Powell did, in fact, remember the dinner party conversation. Conason quoted the email:
He does recall sharing with Secretary Clinton his use of his email account and how useful it was and transformative for the Department. He knew nothing then or until recently about her private home server and a personal domain, nor, therefore, could he have advised her on that or suggested it. By June I would assume her email system was already set up.
“So it is perplexing for him to say he doesn’t remember that dinner conversation at all now, since, according to his own assistant, he remembered at least some of what he said as recently as two months ago,” wrote Conason.
But Cifrino told The Daily Caller the next day that Conason “selectively” worded his article and misinterpreted their email exchange. (RELATED: Powell’s Assistant Denies Pro-Clinton Journo’s Claims)
Cifrino, who declined to share the email exchange at the time, said that while that Powell did not recall discussing emails at the dinner party, he did recall sending Clinton an email discussing the issue in January 2009. Clinton was asked about that email during her July 2 FBI interview.
The story could have ended there as well, but Conason went on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Tuesday to repeat his claims — and tout his book — while failing to address Cifrino’s denial of his account.
“Powell repeated his advice there at the dinner, ‘use your personal email, it was transformative for the Department,'” Conason said on the show.
“And the problem when he tried to deny what was in the book was that I had an email exchange with his principle assistant, a woman named Peggy Cifrino, who told me when the dinner was and what he said at it.”
But that claim was undercut later on Tuesday when Cifrino’s full email exchange with Conason surfaced in the massive Powell leak.
Conason asked Cirfrino three questions in his June 20 email.
1. Did he attend that dinner, along with former secretaries Kissinger, Christopher, Albright, and Rice?
2. Does he recall Secretary Albright asking all of them to give Secretary-designate Clinton one piece of advice from their own time at the State Department?
3. Did he advise Mrs Clinton to use her own email account rather than a State Department account, as he did?
Cifrino wrote back, explicitly telling Conason that Powell could not recall details from the dinner party.
“Given that was 7 years ago, Gen. Powell doesn’t recall Items 2 or 3,” she wrote, referring to the second and third questions on Conason’s list.
Cifrino does tell Conason that Powell “does recall sharing with Secretary Clinton his use of his email account and how useful it was and transformative for the Department,” but that was in reference to the Jan. 2009 email exchange Powell had with Clinton, not a dinner party conversation.
One Aug. 23 email shows Cifrino telling Powell that she found her exchange with Conason and that it supported her side of the story.
“BINGO! All my exchanges with Conason,” the subject line reads.
“And I never said you recalled the dinner conversation. In fact, if you read the exchanges, i specifically said you didn’t recall Items 2 and 3,” she told Powell.
Powell’s Aug. 28 email exchange with Rice, who succeeded the retired Army general and preceded Clinton, also undercuts Conason’s report.
In the email, Powell said he had had a conversation with Albright, his predecessor at State. She also could not recall the dinner party, Powell said.
“I was [sic] Maddy the other evening and she doesn’t remember an email conversation or even asking us a question,” Powell wrote, referring to Albright by her nickname.
“Yes — I’m sure it never came up,” Rice responded.
Conason did not respond to an emailed request for comment.
The Clinton loyalist’s book was panned by The Times in a recent review.
“But there are multiple problems here. Conason is too close, he feels the need to defend Clinton from every last negative story written about him and his family,” reviewer Joe Klein wrote.