Leaks of hacked emails have, in general, been bad news for Democrats and Hillary Clinton in particular over the past few months. However, a release last night of emails stolen by unidentified hackers from the personal account of former Secretary of State Colin Powell offer at least some upside for the Democratic presidential nominee.
The emails, published by the website DCLeaks.com, make clear that Powell holds Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in extremely low regard. In one email, he refers to Trump as a “national disgrace” and said that he had not spoken much about the GOP nominee publicly because “To go on and call him an idiot just emboldens him.”
Powell, who ran the State Department in the first term of the George W. Bush administration and is also a respected former US Army General and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, does not temper his disdain for Trump. Powell’s contempt for the real estate mogul goes back to Trump’s support of the “birther” conspiracy that alleged Barack Obama is ineligible for the presidency because he was supposedly not born in the US.
In an exchange with his former aide, Emily Miller, he wrote, “All his lies and nonsense just pile up. I just go back to the unforgivable one. Trying to destroy the President elected by the American people with his fictitious investigation into this source of birth. Absolutely disgraceful.”
The emails show that even after Trump’s eventual nomination, Powell was being besieged by people practically begging him to come out and publicly denounce Trump. Powell’s replies regularly show him resistant to going public with his disdain for the candidate. In one email he writes, “I am a private citizen with only one obligation and that is to vote.”
Last month, in an email exchange, defense expert Harlan K. Ullman asked Powell when he would step up and “throw the knock-out blow?”
“I try not to bother someone who is beating himself and the GOP up,” he replied. “And please, don't start bugging me like every newsie and getter in town. If and when I do it will be known.”
Related: Worried About Trump, GOP Donors Back Paul Ryan and His Congressional ‘Firewall’
In the same exchange, when Ullman describes Trump as “mentally unbalanced and quite possibly deranged,” Powell replies that there is “No question about it.”
Other emails show former Republican foreign policy hands, like Powell’s former assistant secretary of state Richard Armitage forwarding his former boss a link to former Daily Show host Jon Stewart’s lengthy takedown of Trump. In late July, in an email exchange with foreign policy analyst Fred Kaplan, Powell refers to Sen. John McCain’s support for Trump, in an effort to win reelection, as “pitiful.”
In another email, Powell characterizes retired Gen. Michael Flynn, who is advising Trump, as “a jerk” who “got canned” from his job running the Defense Intelligence Agency.
The leak also shows two former Republican secretaries of state agreeing that the long-running investigation of the 2012 attacks on the US compound in Benghazi Libya, in which US Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens was killed, has been a “witch hunt.” More surprisingly, they also appear to agree that much of the blame for Stevens’ death belongs to the deceased ambassador himself, for misreading the security situation in Libya.
“Benghazi is a stupid witch hunt. Basic fault falls on a courageous ambassador who thought Libyans now love me and I am ok in this very vulnerable place,” Powell wrote in an email to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in December 2015. He continued, “But blame also rests on his leaders and supports back here. Pat Kennedy, Intel community, DS and yes [Clinton].”
“Completely agree,” Rice responded.
Clinton does not come out of the Powell leak completely unscathed, though. She has repeatedly tried to deflect criticism of her decision to use a private email server for her correspondence as Secretary of State by reminding people that Powell also used a private email account for some of his correspondence.
In several emails, Powell expresses his frustration with Clinton and her camp trying to connect her email problems to his use of a personal AOL account. “I have told [Hillary’s] minions repeatedly that they are making a mistake trying to drag me in, yet they still try,” he wrote in one exchange. “The media isn’t fooled and she is getting crucified...The differences are profound and they know it.”
In a later exchange with a reporter, he addressed Clinton’s claim that she started using a personal account at Powell’s suggestion. “I told her how I was using my personal computer for [unclassified] emails. I said nothing about servers, basements, domains, Clinton foundation, government employees,” he wrote.
As recently as last month, he wrote, “Sad thing [is] that HRC could have killed this two years ago by merely telling everyone honestly what she had done and not tie me into it. I told her staff three times not to try that gambit. I had to throw a mini tantrum at a Hampton’s party to get their attention. She keeps tripping into these ‘character’ minefields.”
In another email, he notes, “Everything HRC touches she kind of screws up with hubris.”