A document released Monday by the FBI seems to show a quid quo pro arrangement between a top Department of State official and an FBI agent regarding Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s emails, but both agencies are denying any kind of arrangement ever existed.
The document contains a series of FBI interviews conducted as part of the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time as secretary of state.
Notes from one of the interviews state that an FBI agent felt pressured from an official at the behest of Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy to downgrade an email from “secret” status to unclassified, CNN reports.
This FBI official from the International Operations Division reportedly told the agent that in exchange for fiddling with the classification status, the official from the State Department promised to facilitate moving FBI agents overseas into sensitive regions. A second interview in the notes states that it was in fact the FBI that broached the subject of getting more of its agents in Baghdad, Iraq.
The FBI has since denied any such quid quo pro arrangement, and the email did not actually have its status changed, though Kennedy apparently tried multiple times to persuade the FBI otherwise.
Over 100 emails obtained from Clinton’s server had classified information. Other emails were later listed as classified retroactively.
The Department of State through Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner has also labeled allegations of quid quo pro as “inaccurate.” For Toner, repeated communication from Kennedy to the FBI was nothing more than an attempt to understand why the email was listed as classified.
“Classification is an art, not a science, and individuals with classification authority sometimes have different views,” Toner said. “There can be applicable FOIA exemptions that are based on both classified and unclassified rules … We have been committed to releasing as much information to the public as possible, and ensuring that documents are withheld due to classification only when necessary to prevent damage to national security — as the Executive Order on classification calls for.”
Toner also noted that the FBI did not get what it apparently wanted in Iraq.
Top Republicans have been finding it difficult to believe the straight denials from the FBI and the Department of State.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said the apparent pressure from the Department of State was indicative of a cover-up.
“These documents further demonstrate Secretary Clinton’s complete disregard for properly handling classified information,” Ryan said in a statement. “This is exactly why I called on (Director of National Intelligence James) Clapper to deny her access to classified information. Moreover, a senior State Department official’s attempt to pressure the FBI to hide the extent of this mishandling bears all the signs of a cover-up. This is why our aggressive oversight work in the House is so important, and it will continue.”
Upon learning of the news, Jason Miller, spokesman for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, demanded Kennedy’s resignation.
“The news that top Clinton aide Patrick Kennedy tried to engage in a blatant quid pro quo for changing the classification level of several of Clinton’s emails shows a cavalier attitude towards protecting our nation’s secrets,” Miller said in a statement.
“Kennedy must resign from the State Department immediately and Clinton must state he has no place in her administration if she is elected President,” Miller added.
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