The endorsement comes as a surprise because Powell, 79, spoke harshly of both candidates in a series of private emails that were hacked and published on the Internet earlier this year.
The emails became Powell’s defining statements on both candidates until he revealed his endorsement of Clinton during a speech to the Long Island Association, a New York business trade group.
While he mixed praise with criticism of Clinton, whom he said he “respected,” his condemnation of Trump was unequivocal.
He called Trump a “national disgrace” with “no sense of shame” and that was before Trump’s degrading comments about women were leaked from a 2005 conversation with then-Access Hollywood co-host Billy Bush.
He was also critical of Trump’s role in the birther movement, which claimed Obama was really born in Kenya. He said it was patently “racist.”
“To go on and call him an idiot just emboldens him,” he wrote.
During his speech, Powell said Trump “insults us every day” and is “selling people a bill of goods,” according to Newsday reporter Robert Brodsky, who covered the meeting.
As for Clinton, he complained in hacked emails that it was a “mistake” for “Hillary’s minions” to repeatedly tried to drag him into her email server controversy by saying she was just following his lead.
Powell also used a private email server, without repercussions, while Secretary of State under President George W. Bush. But Powell protested that he only told Clinton about it a year after she’d set up her server.
He she should have disclosed her use of it much earlier, he said.
Powell also called repeated congressional investigations into Benghazi “a stupid witch hunt.”
In another email, he said Clinton “kind of screws up with hubris” every thing she touches. “I would rather not have to vote for her, although she is a friend I respect,” he said.
Being a life-long Republican, his voting preference is not surprising. But it gives his endorsement a “man-bites-dog” quality.
He joins dozens of current an former Republican officials who have officially endorsed Clinton.
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