WASHINGTON • Former United States Secretary of State Colin Powell has long been one of the high priests of the Washington establishment, staying quiet in this year's raucous presidential campaign while tending to his reputation as a thoughtful ex-general and diplomat.
But a hack of Mr Powell's e-mails this week has ripped away the diplomatic jargon and political niceties to reveal his unvarnished disdain for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, whom he called a "national disgrace".
They also reveal his personal peeves with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and his lingering but still very raw anger with Republican colleagues, with whom he so often clashed a decade ago.
There has been an expectation that Mr Powell, who waited until the final weeks to endorse Mr Barack Obama for president in 2008 and 2012, would do the same for Mrs Clinton this year.
But in one 2014 e-mail released online, Mr Powell lamented that while he respected Mrs Clinton, he would "rather not have to vote for her", describing her as having "a long track record, unbridled ambition, greedy, not transformational".
NOT FIT FOR OFFICE
Trump is a national disgrace and an international pariah.
MR POWELL, in an e-mail in June this year.
AMBITIOUS AND GREEDY
I would rather not have to vote for her, although she is a friend I respect. A 70-year-old person with a long track record, unbridled ambition, greedy, not transformational.
MR POWELL, on Mrs Hillary Clinton in a July 2014 e-mail. Note: Mrs Clinton is 68.
The e-mails make it clear that if Mr Powell endorses Mrs Clinton, he will be motivated by intense feelings about Mr Trump.
In the e-mail messages, which an aide to Mr Powell confirmed were authentic, the retired four-star general - who served as former president George W. Bush's top diplomat - insisted that Mr Trump should not be elected president.
"No need to debate it with you now, but Trump is a national disgrace and an international pariah," Mr Powell wrote in June, noting the criticism of Mr Trump by several prominent conservatives. "He is in the process of destroying himself, no need for (Democrats) to attack him."
Mr Powell also accused Mr Trump of having embraced a "racist" movement when the billionaire aggressively questioned the validity of President Obama's birth certificate and his legitimacy to serve as the country's top elected official.
But the e-mails, many of which were sent in recent weeks, also reveal Mr Powell's disapproval of Mrs Clinton's handling of her e-mail scandal, and expose his sometimes unflattering observations of the former senator and her husband, former president Bill Clinton.
In a series of exchanges, Mr Powell lamented efforts by Mrs Clinton's "minions" to drag him into the controversy surrounding her use of a private e-mail server by claiming he had advised her on the issue.
"H.R.C. could have killed this two years ago by merely telling everyone honestly what she had done and not tie me into it," Mr Powell wrote late last month, referring to Mrs Clinton by her initials.
In the 2014 e-mail, Mr Powell, though offering no independent knowledge, alluded in graphic language to coverage in The New York Post suggesting that Mr Clinton had continued to cheat on his wife.
Mr Powell's e-mails appeared on a website called DCLeaks.com, which had previously posted documents that the site had obtained after hacks into the accounts of prominent Democrats and some Republicans. It is unclear who operates DCLeaks.com. Mr Powell did not respond to an e-mail sent to his personal account.