State Department official “pressured” FBI to declassify Clinton email- FBI documents
A senior official at the U.S. State Department tried to push the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2015 into dropping its insistence that an email from Hillary Clinton’s private server contained classified information, according to summaries of interviews with FBI officials released by the FBI on Monday.
According to the records, an FBI official, whose name is redacted, told investigators that Patrick Kennedy, the State Department’s most senior manager, repeatedly “pressured” the FBI to declassify information in one of Clinton’s emails. The information in that particular email originated from the FBI, which meant that the FBI had the last word on whether it was classified.
The official said that at one point an FBI colleague received a call from Kennedy in which Kennedy “asked his assistance in altering the email’s classification in exchange for a ‘quid pro quo.'”
The FBI official said he also joined discussions with Kennedy about the email, and that Kennedy appeared to be trying to protect Clinton by minimizing the appearance of classified government secrets in emails from the private server that Clinton used while she was secretary of state.
In a separate interview, another unnamed FBI official said he told Kennedy he would look into the email, which he had not yet seen, if the State Department would consider allowing more FBI agents to be posted overseas in exchange.
The State Department said on Monday that the accusations against Kennedy were not accurate.
Clinton, the Democratic candidate for the Nov. 8 presidential election, has faced steady criticism from Republicans over her use of the unauthorized server for her work as the country’s most senior diplomat between 2009 and 2013.
After a year-long FBI investigation into the server, FBI Director James Comey said in July he found that while laws governing classified information may have been broken no reasonable prosecutor would bring charges. He said, however, that Clinton and her staff had been “extremely careless” in handling classified information.
The FBI released 100 pages of interview summaries on Monday, the fourth release of documents from its investigation.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner called the allegation against Kennedy inaccurate, saying it “does not align with the facts” and noting that the email in question ended up being marked as classified when released, with redactions, to the public last year.
“Classification is an art, not a science, and individuals with classification authority sometimes have different views,” Toner said in a statement.
Interview summaries released previously by the FBI also show at least one official in the State Department telling investigators that there was pressure by senior department officials to mislead the public about the presence of classified information in Clinton’s emails ahead of their public release.
A summary released on Monday showed another official in the office of the State Department’s inspector general making similar allegations.
The State Department has said these allegations are also false. About 30,000 emails Clinton that returned to the department after she left were released to the public in 2015 and 2016.
The State Department said the email Kennedy discussed with the FBI was related to the attack in 2012 on a U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans.
Ultimately, the FBI told Kennedy that declassification was not possible, according to the interview summaries.
Clinton’s Republican rival for the White House, Donald Trump, has accused her of jeopardizing national security while she was secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.
Trump responded to the allegations against Kennedy with a single-word message on Twitter, saying, “Unbelievable.”
Clinton has apologized for using the server, which she kept in the basement of her New York home, saying it was a mistake. In 2015 and earlier this year, she repeatedly said she never sent or received classified information via her server, but since the release of the FBI report in July she has said she relied on the judgment of her subordinates at the department.
Robby Mook, her campaign manager, told reporters on Monday it was “very well known that there were disputes” over classification.
“It’s not uncommon for officials within a department to fight over classification,” he said. (Additional reporting by Julia Edwards, Emily Stephenson and Luciana Lopez; Writing by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Franklin Paul and Frances Kerry)