U.S. government officials deny that any deal was proposed between the State Department and the FBI to change the classification of a Hillary Clinton email in exchange for allowing more of the bureau’s agents to be posted overseas.
“We dispute the assertion that there was any kind of quid pro quo involving the case of upgrading an email in exchange for additional slots for FBI officials in Baghdad,” said deputy spokesman Mark Toner.
During intense questioning by reporters at the department’s daily briefing Monday, Toner called any insinuation of a proposed deal insulting.
According to summaries of interviews with FBI officials released earlier in the day, a bureau official told investigators that Undersecretary of State Patrick Kennedy pressured the FBI to declassify information in one of the emails from the private server of Clinton from the time she served as secretary of state.
Downgrading the email’s classification level for archiving would have allowed it, as Kennedy is quoted as saying, “never to be seen again.”
The particular email related to the 2012 attack on a U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya. Four Americans died in the siege, including then-Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
Since the incident, conservative critics of Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, have fiercely attacked her for allegedly ignoring security warnings and engaging in a cover-up.
The chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Jason Chaffetz, a Republican from the state of Utah, and Devin Nunes, a California Republican and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Monday called for the president and secretary of state to immediately remove Kennedy from his post, calling the career diplomat’s actions "extremely disturbing.”
“Pat Kennedy is going to remain at his job and he has the full confidence of the secretary of state,” Toner said when asked about the congressmen’s request.
The revelation is the latest chapter in the email controversy that has vexed Clinton.
Her main opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, on the social media platform Twitter, Monday characterized the newly released documents as “unbelievable” and evidence of “corruption confirmed.”
The notes released a total of 100 pages and are the FBI’s fourth release of materials related to its now-closed investigation of Clinton’s use of a private email server.
The FBI, in a statement, said no deal was proposed in a discussion between Kennedy and one its officials, whose name was redacted from the released documents and has since retired.
“Having been previously unsuccessful in attempts to speak with the senior State official, during the same conversation, the FBI official asked the State Department official if they would address a pending, unaddressed FBI request for space for additional FBI employees assigned abroad. Following the call, the FBI official consulted with a senior FBI executive responsible for determining the classification of the material and determined the email was in fact appropriately classified at the Secret level,” according to the statement, which added that “although there was never a quid pro quo, these allegations were nonetheless referred to the appropriate officials for review.”
A spokesman for the Clinton presidential campaign, Robby Mook, characterized the FBI-State Department conversations about the Benghazi email as one of numerous, routine disputes regarding classification.
“It’s not uncommon for officials within a department to fight over classification,” Mook told reporters.