A New York Times reporter who has covered Hillary Rodham Clinton said he is "baffled" why she initially set up a secret email server, and blamed the fear of prosecution on her wrong-headed bid to blame former Secretary of State Colin Powell for suggesting a second system.

Mark Landler, author of Alter Egos: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and the Twilight Struggle Over American Power, told a Washington audience that Clinton probably lost Powell's endorsement as a result.

"I think that the more recent comments about Powell may arise slightly out of a desperation in the face of possible prosecution, and so it's unfortunate. She may well have lost her Colin Powell endorsement over this, it's likely she has," he said during a discussion of world order at the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

Clinton, in the latest escalation of the email scandal, suggested that having a separate email server was an idea offered up by Powell. He rejected that, however, saying, "her people are trying to pin it on me."

Landler admitted to being stumped by the whole affair.

"The email case has to be troubling to people. I'm still baffled why someone, herself, who is so smart and so experienced and had such experienced people around her ever could have made the initial decision on this. I found it absolutely confounding," he said.

However, he indicated that it might not derail her chances when asked to size up a Clinton and Trump White House inner circle.

"If you ask me what a Trump White House would be like, I would say I have no idea. I truly do not. Partly because he's so erratic and increasingly we may not have to deal with that prospect. But that's also speculation."

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com