State Dept., FBI deny claim of 'quid pro quo' effort to unclassify Clinton email

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks to volunteers at a campaign office in Seattle, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The FBI released 100 pages of documents Monday from its investigation of Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server as secretary of state.

FBI Director James Comey said in July that the year-long investigation did not find evidence to justify recommending criminal charges against Clinton or her aides. Republicans have been critical of the investigation since then, with presidential nominee Donald Trump insisting the FBI is corrupt and Clinton should be in jail.

The FBI has previously released hundreds of pages of documents from the investigation detailing interviews with Clinton, her staff, and State Department personnel.

The new documents include summaries of interviews with FBI officials and employees of companies that were involved with servicing Clinton's server.

Although the classification review process found that more than 2,000 emails on Clinton's server contained classified information and 110 included material that was classified at the time they were sent, one in particular appears to have caused concern at the State Department and led to multiple attempts to change the FBI's determination.

According to these documents, after the FBI’s counterterrorism division determined one email to contain secret information, the State Department Office of Legal Counsel contacted the FBI Records Management Division to dispute the classification, arguing that the email could not contain “foreign government” information because the country in question had no government.

The FBI records official who denied that request told investigators he then received a call from the FBI International Operations Division and was told Patrick Kennedy, undersecretary of state, had asked for assistance with declassifying the email in exchange for a “quid pro quo.”

“In exchange for marking the email unclassified, State would reciprocate by allowing the FBI to place more agents in countries where they are presently forbidden,” the records official said.

The official later attended an interagency meeting with Kennedy about the classification review. In a private meeting afterward, Kennedy allegedly asked if the FBI could “see their way to marking the email unclassified.”

After again denying the request, the official told Kennedy he would have to speak to the assistant director of the Counterterrorism Division. During a conference call with Assistant Director Michael Steinbach, Kennedy again unsuccessfully argued for changing the classification.

According to the documents, the records official “believes State has an agenda which involves minimizing the classified nature of the Clinton emails in order to protect State interests and those of Clinton.”

The FBI International Operations official who supposedly made the “quid pro quo” agreement with Kennedy was also interviewed by investigations. He said Kennedy told him the email “caused problems” for him and he wanted to “archive the document in the basement of DoS never to be seen again.”

The official told Kennedy he would look into it if Kennedy would provide authority to increase FBI personnel in Iraq. However, when the official learned more details about the email, which was related to the attacks on the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, he told Kennedy there was no way he could help.

The FBI and the State Department denied any collusion occurred and disputed the account of events presented in the interview.

"This allegation is inaccurate and does not align with the facts," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Monday, according to Politico.

An FBI statement asserted that "there was never a quid pro quo."

According to the FBI, the now-retired official who spoke to Kennedy was not involved in the investigation of Clinton and only raised the issue of increasing FBI personnel because he had been unsuccessful in making contact with Kennedy previously to discuss pending requests.

"These allegations were nonetheless referred to the appropriate officials for review," the FBI statement said.

Still, the Trump campaign claimed the emails provided "undeniable proof" of a conspiracy between State, the FBI, and the Clinton campaign.

"Hillary Clinton has recklessly put our national security at extreme risk. We have men and women putting their lives on the line for this country. If any person had done a fraction of what she has done with our sensitive information they would be criminally charged and those in our military would be court-martialed," Trump adviser retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn said in a statement.

House Speaker Paul Ryan issued a statement Monday in response to the allegations contained in the new documents.

“These documents further demonstrate Secretary Clinton’s complete disregard for properly handling classified information,” Ryan said. “This is exactly why I called on DNI 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.”

The Director of National Intelligence has denied Ryan’s request to block Clinton from accessing classified information. She and Donald Trump both currently receive classified briefings.

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