Undersecretary of State Patrick Kennedy pressured the FBI to downgrade the classification of one of Hillary Clinton’s emails to unclassified as a part of a “quid pro quo”, according to FBI documents released Monday that cited redacted sources.
The documents say that an unnamed person interviewed by the FBI said that Kennedy tried in late June or early July of last year to get the FBI to change a classified email to unclassified, in exchange for the State Department allowing the FBI to place agents in more countries “where they are presently forbidden” the document states.
The FBI documents state that the person, whose name was redacted told investigators that the State Department was trying to “minimize the classified nature of the Clinton emails in order to protect State interests and those of Clinton.”
The unnamed official said that during a private meeting, Kennedy followed up with the request and asked the FBI if they could “see their way to marking the email unclassified?”
“According to [REDACTED], KENNEDY spent the next 15 minutes debating the classification of the email and attempting to influence the FBI to change its markings.”
The official then said that Kennedy went to Michael Steinbach, the assistant director of the FBI’s counterterrorism division to persuade him to turn the classified message to unclassified, something that Steinbach refused to do.
A State Department representative denied the claim that such “quid pro quo” ever occurred.
“This allegation is inaccurate and does not align with the facts. To be clear: the State Department did upgrade the document at the request of the FBI when we released it back in May 2015,” State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner said, CNBC reported.
“Under Secretary Kennedy sought to understand the FBI’s process for withholding certain information from public release,” Toner continued. “As has been reported, there have been discussions within the interagency on issues of classification. Classification is an art, not a science, and individuals with classification authority sometimes have different views. There can be applicable FOIA exemptions that are based on both classified and unclassified rules.”
“It’s very well known that there were disputes between the State Department and other agencies about classification. It’s not unusual,” Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook said during a press call Monday morning.
Speaker Paul Ryan weighed in on the 100 pages of documents released by the FBI, regarding the investigation into the private email server used by Hillary Clinton during her time as Secretary of State.
“These documents further demonstrate Secretary Clinton’s complete disregard for properly handling classified information,” Ryan said in a written statement. “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.”