Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice Staffers Also Handled Emails Later Deemed Classified on Private Accounts, Officials Say

PHOTO: US Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice look on as US President George W. Bush meets with Chilean President Ricardo Lagos in the Oval Office of the White House 19 July 2004 in Washington, DC.PlaySTEPHEN JAFFE/AFP/Getty Images
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The State Department is now saying that Hillary Clinton wasn't the only former Secretary of State or their staff to handle classified information on a private email account, a Congressman told ABC News.

Colin Powell and the immediate staff of Condoleezza Rice, both of whom served under President George W. Bush, also had information that was later deemed classified on non-State Department email accounts, according to a new memo from the State Department's Inspector General, described to ABC News by Rep. Elijah Cummings.

That memo, dated Feb. 3 and addressed to Under Secretary of State for Management, Patrick Kennedy, was shared with Cummings, the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. ABC News has not seen the memo.

Cummings, who has long been critical of the many Republican-led investigations into Clinton's email use, says this is just further evidence they are out to derail her campaign for President.

“Based on this new revelation, it is clear that the Republican investigations are nothing more than a transparent political attempt to use taxpayer funds to target the Democratic candidate for President,” Cummings said in a statement.

Cummings also sent a letter to current Secretary of State John Kerry requesting, among other things, copies of the emails. His letter described the Inspector General's findings.

"According to the memo, on December 29, 2015, the Department advised the OIG [Office of Inspector General] that 12 of these emails contain classified national security information, two of which were sent to the personal email account of Secretary Powell and ten of which were sent to the personal email accounts of Secretary Rice's immediate staff," the letter from Cummings reads.

According to Cummings, the OIG memo says those emails were sent between February 2003 and June 2008 and that none of them were marked classified at the time they were sent.

In a statement to ABC News, a representative for Rice reiterated that the Secretary never used a private email account during her tenure and that the focus here was on her staff. The statement said the emails in question were sent to her assistant and covered diplomatic conversations, not intelligence information.

Powell strongly disputed the Inspector General's findings, explaining first that the messages originated with two U.S. ambassadors and were forwarded to him from his executive assistant.

"I have reviewed the messages and I do not see what makes them classified," Powell said in a statement to ABC News. "The Ambassadors did not believe the contents were Confidential at the time and they were sent as unclassified. That is a fact. While they have not yet clarified this point, the State Department cannot now say they were classified then because they weren’t. If the Department wishes to say a dozen years later they should have been classified that is an opinion of the Department that I do not share."

The State Department's Inspector General's office would not comment on the memo and the State Department's spokesman, John Kirby, would only acknowledge the Department is in receipt of the memo.

Last week the State Department said that upon recommendation from the Intelligence Community it would withhold from public release 22 of Secretary Clinton's private emails because they had been upgraded to "top secret," a reference to the highest level of classification.

Clinton's campaign has accused the intelligence community of conspiring with Republicans on Capitol Hill to misrepresent her emails in an effort to damage her presidential campaign.

Her campaign spokesman, John Podesta, issued a statement late today saying Clinton and Powell are in agreement that the government is unnecessarily classifying these documents.

"This announcement about Secretary Powell's emails shows just how routine it is for government bureaucrats to go overboard when it comes to judging whether information is too sensitive for the public to see,” Podesta said in a statement. “Hillary Clinton agrees with her predecessor that his emails, like hers, are being inappropriately subjected to over-classification. She joins his call for these emails to be released so that the public can view the contents for itself."