Official allegedly offered favor to change classification of Clinton email
PUBLISHED Mon, October 17, 2016 - 11:19am EDT
Credit: U.S. Navy
An FBI employee told investigators last year that a senior State Department official repeatedly pressured the agency to change its classification on an email sent or received by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, according to newly-released documents.
An employee at the FBI's records management division told agents carrying out an investigation into Clinton's handling of classified information that he believed that the State Department had "an agenda" to minimize the classified nature of the former secretary's emails.
About 100 pages released by the FBI on Monday explained that the employee, whose identity was withheld, received an email from the State Department's Freedom of Information Act section in June 2015, requesting that the FBI's records division carry out a classification review on 5 Clinton emails.
"[The employee] recognized that at least 1 of the emails appeared classified and forwarded same to the Counterterrorism Division (CTD) for classification review," the documents explain, recounting the information provided by the FBI employee.
About a week later, the FBI employee said he was contacted by the State Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), questioning the FBI's decision to classify the email as secret. The office argued that the subject in question did not have a recognized government and thus did not qualify for its content to be classed as 'foreign government information.'
The employee said he received a call from someone at the FBI's International Operations Division a short time later, 'pressuring' him to change the email's status to unclassified. The caller allegedly told the employee that Undersecretary of State Patrick Kennedy had offered a "quid pro quo."
"[The caller] advised that, 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," investigators said, recounting the employee's interview.
The FBI has denied being involved in a quid pro quo but said that a State Department official discussed the email matter with a retired FBI employee, who was trying to speak with the official regarding an FBI request for employees abroad. After discussing the email, the employee asked about the pending request but not in connection with the classification, according to the FBI.
The documents further explain that after the call, the employee was summoned to an "all agency" meeting at the State Department, where Kennedy presided over a meeting with officials from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and other agencies to discuss the release of Clinton emails.
After the meeting, Kennedy allegedly asked the employee whether the FBI could "see their way to marking the email unclassified", and the two debated the email for the next 15 minutes. When the employee insisted that the email was appropriately marked as secret, Kennedy asked who else he could speak to at the FBI, and the employee directed him to speak with Michael Steinbach.
The employee said he later took part in a conference call involving Kennedy and Steinbach, who at the time served as the assistant director of the FBI's Counterterrorism Division. During the call, Kennedy is alleged to have continued to pressure the FBI to change the email's marking to unclassified, but Steinbach refused to do so.
Later that day, Clinton appeared in front of journalists and again denied having sent or received any classified information on her private email server, but it is unknown whether Clinton was at the time aware of the FBI's decision to mark at least one of her emails as classified.
In July of this year, FBI Director James Comey said the agency had concluded that no criminal charges should be brought against Clinton, despite what he called "extremely careless" handling of work emails during her tenure as secretary of state.
Comey confirmed that classified information was sent and received through private email servers and that Clinton failed to turn over all work-related emails, but he said that investigators found no evidence to indicate that Clinton or her team had the intention to violate laws in regards to record-keeping and the handling of classified information.
As such, with evidence of intent being required to bring criminal charges, the FBI recommended that no criminal charges be brought in connection with the investigation. The U.S. Justice Department agreed with the decision, after which the investigation was closed.
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