Colin Powell, a former US secretary of state and a respected Republican, called Donald Trump a “national disgrace and an international pariah” in private emails to former colleagues and journalists written in the context of the ongoing White House race.
Powell also said in these mails – acquired by DCLeaks.com, which is believed to have links to Russian intelligence, and cited by several news websites – that the Benghazi inquiries against former secretary of state Hillary Clinton were a “stupid witch hunt”.
But the celebrated general did not spare Clinton either, and said her “minions” tried to drag him into the controversy over her use of a private email server. He resented it and said he resorted to a minor tantrum to end it.
There was no response from the Trump campaign to these observations that were private but devastating for the nominee, who continues to battle a persisting perception, argued by Democrats and conceded by many in his own party, that he is not fit for the office of president.
There was no response also from the campaign of Clinton, who is recovering from pneumonia at home in Chappaqua, New York. She plans to return to the campaign trail on Thursday with a rally in North Carolina.
Powell confirmed the content of the emails that dominated the 24x7 web and TV coverage of the White House race, overshadowing a childcare plan unveiled by Trump on Tuesday, but he did not add to them.
He doesn’t need to, they are damaging enough. Powell was scarred by his role in the case made by the Bush administration to invade Iraq in 2003, of which he became the face for a presentation he made to the UN Security Council and which many allege was fabricated, but he remains a statesman-like figure.
Powell has not publicly taken sides yet, and like many senior officials of previous Republican administrations, such as his successor in the Bush administration Condoleezza Rice, he has chosen to keep his thoughts to himself, or within a circle of friends
But they are now out. He called Trump a “national disgrace and an international pariah” in an email to a former aide in June 2016, adding Trump “is in the process of destroying himself, no need for (Democrats) to attack him”.
In another email to the same former aide, Powell poured scorn on Trump’s role in the “birther movement” — those who argue, without any evidence, that Barack Obama was not qualified to be president as he was not born on US soil.
“Yup, the whole birther movement was racist,” he wrote. “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.”
In an email sent in May – with “racism” in the subject line – Powell wrote “as I said before the 2012 election, ‘There is a level of intolerance in parts of the Republican Party’”.