Official sought to change Clinton email classification
WASHINGTON — A top State Department official tried to pressure the FBI to change its determination that at least one of the emails on Hillary Clinton’s private server contained classified content, prompting discussion of a possible trade to resolve the issue, two FBI employees told colleagues investigating her use of a private server last year.
One FBI official conceded that he told the State Department employee he would “look into” changing the classification of a Clinton email if the official would lend his authority to an FBI request to increase its personnel in Iraq, according to documents released by the bureau Monday. Another bureau official described the arrangement as a “quid pro quo” and said he believed that the State Department official, Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy, was interested in “minimizing the classified nature of the Clinton emails in order to protect State interests and those of Clinton,” the documents say.
No tangible swap ever came to pass. The email was classified in accordance with the FBI’s original wishes, and the bureau was not given any additional personnel in Iraq. Both the FBI and the State Department denied that a quid pro quo ever existed.
Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state has dogged the Democratic presidential nominee’s campaign and has proved to be an issue that resonates with voters.
In a video statement posted to his Twitter page Monday, Republican nominee Donald Trump said: “This is very big, and frankly, it’s unbelievable. What was just found out is that the The email on Hillary Clinton’s private server was related to the 2012 attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. Department of Justice, the State Department and the FBI colluded, got together, to make Hillary Clinton look less guilty and look a lot better than she looks. This is one of the big breaking stories of our time, in my opinion. This shows corruption at the highest level, and we can’t let it happen as American citizens.”
Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon said in a written statement: “It is well known that there was strong disagreement among various government agencies about the decisions to retroactively classify certain material in emails sent to Secretary Clinton. Agencies that took issue with this overclassification did so based on their own beliefs, and we were not part of these disagreements that played out inside the government.”
The FBI said in a statement that it had referred the matter to the “appropriate officials for review.” The official at the center of the matter — who is not named in the documents — has since retired, the bureau said.
The FBI and the Justice Department declined to bring charges against Clinton for mishandling classified information while she Kennedy was secretary of state, and FBI Director James Comey has repeatedly and forcefully defended that decision.
The documents released Monday include more than three dozen interview summaries with technology company employees, FBI agents and even Diplomatic Security officers who worked with Clinton.
The allegation of a quid pro quo, first reported by The Weekly Standard, came from an official in the FBI’s records management division, who was relaying an interaction between a colleague in the international operations division and Kennedy.
The international operations division official eventually told Kennedy he could not change the classification of the email, which was related to the 2012 attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.
The documents released Monday contain other potentially damaging allegations. One former Diplomatic Security agent, for example, told FBI investigators that Clinton “blatantly” disregarded State Department security protocols while she was secretary of state.
Melania Trump told CNN a 2005 video doesn’t reflect “the man that I know.”