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Powell: Trump A 'National Disgrace'; Clinton 'Screws Up' Everything 'With Hubris'

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, seen here in Washington in 2008.
Susan Walsh
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, seen here in Washington in 2008.

Colin Powell, who is usually a model of public restraint, apparently was not so much in his emails.

The former secretary of state under George W. Bush had harsh words for both presidential nominees in emails made public that were apparently hacked.

In the emails from the past few months and going back to last year, Powell called GOP nominee Donald Trump a "national disgrace," an "international pariah" with "no sense of shame," who is leading a "racist" movement — because of Trump's leading the "birther" movement and having questioned President Obama's religion.

He didn't hold back much for Hillary Clinton, either, saying, "Everything HRC touches she kind of screws up with hubris."

The emails, first posted by DCLeaks.com — a site MSNBC reported has rumored ties to Russian intelligence — and reported by BuzzFeed News, go into more detail about Powell's views on the two candidates. Some of the choice excerpts, according to different outlets:

On Trump: To call him "an idiot just emboldens him"

Per BuzzFeed, Powell wrote to former aide Emily Miller, a correspondent with the conservative One America News Network, on the birther movement:

"Yup, the whole birther movement was racist. That's what the 99% believe. When Trump couldn't keep that up he said he also wanted to see if the certificate noted that he was a Muslim."

Powell told Miller, according to BuzzFeed, that Trump "is in the process of destroying himself, no need for Dems to attack him. Paul Ryan is calibrating his position again."


"As I have said before, 'What if he was?' Muslims are born as Americans everyday."

He lamented the direction of the GOP:

"Or as I said before the 2012 election, 'There is a level of intolerance in parts of the Republican Party.' "

To other recipients, Powell noted that, in declining news media interviews, he thought Trump was getting too much coverage. As for Powell going on air to criticize Trump, Powell said he would "pick the timing," and that "to go on and call him an idiot just emboldens him."

On Clinton: "Dumb"; should have handled email server "honestly"

Per The Intercept, Powell said there was a difference between what he was doing with a private email address as opposed to a private server.

Powell wrote to a business partner:

"They are going to d*** up the legitimate and necessary use of emails with friggin record rules. I saw email more like a telephone than a cable machine. As long as the stuff is unclassified. I had a secure State.gov machine. Everything HRC touches she kind of screws up with hubris."

He was critical of how she's handled her defense:

"Dumb. She should have done a 'Full Monty' at the beginning. ... I warned her staff three times over the past two years not to try to connect it to me. I am not sure HRC even knew or understood what was going on in the basement."

He added in another:

"HRC could have killed this two years ago by merely telling everyone honestly what she had done and not tie me to it."

He said he had complained to Clinton's staff on multiple occasions, had met with top Clinton adviser Cheryl Mills just last month and had had to "throw a mini tantrum at a Hampton's [sic] party to get their attention. She keeps tripping into these 'character' minefields."

In another email, per NBC, Powell wrote:

"I have told Hilleary's [sic] minions repeatedly that they are making a mistake trying to drag me in, yet they still try."

Powell also complained, per The Intercept, about Clinton gobbling up speaking fees, so much so that one university couldn't afford to pay him:

"I told you about the gig I lost at a University because she so overcharged them they came under heat and couldn't any fees for awhile. I should send her a bill."

Powell told BuzzFeed: "I have no further comment." But: "I'm not denying it."

A Powell aide confirmed the hack to the New York Times and said, "They are his emails."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.