Did FBI barter with Hillary Clinton over email classification?

FBI and Hillary Clinton: Patrick Kennedy, the US State Department official, allegedly offered the FBI permission to post agents in more countries in exchange for reclassifying emails found on Hillary Clinton's private server.

Molly Riley/AP/File
Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., last month. Mr. Kennedy allegedly sought last year for the FBI to change the classification level of an email from Hillary Clinton’s private server in a proposed bargain described as a “quid pro quo," according to internal FBI records released Monday.

Adding to the nearly 250 pages of investigatory records already released, the FBI published 100 pages more on Monday of interview notes pertaining to its investigation of Hillary Clinton's private email server during her time as US secretary of State.

Republican lawmakers lobbed fresh allegations to coincide with the FBI release, pointing to an interview with an unnamed official in the FBI's own records management division as evidence of wrongdoing, perhaps even collusion in furtherance of Mrs. Clinton's presidential campaign.

"This is a flashing red light of potential criminality," US Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R) of Utah told Fox News on Sunday. Mr. Chaffetz, the House Oversight Committee chairman who has held hearings on the email scandal, said there are grounds for at least four more hearings.

Patrick Kennedy, the US State Department undersecretary for management, allegedly proposed the "quid pro quo" arrangement by suggesting the FBI downgrade the classified status of one email in exchange for an expanded bureau presence in certain additional countries.

"In return for altering the classification, the possibility of additional slots for the FBI at missions overseas was discussed," Chaffetz said. He and Rep. Devin Nunes, (R) of Calif.,  the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, called for Mr. Kennedy's removal.

"Those who receive classified intelligence should not barter in it – that is reckless behavior with our nation's secrets," the two Republican lawmakers said in a statement.

Both the State Department and FBI have denied the allegation.

State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner said Monday that the allegations are factually inaccurate and that Kennedy's conversations were an attempt to understand the FBI's process for releasing certain information to the public via Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

"Classification is an art, not a science, and individuals with classification authority sometimes have different views," Mr. Toner said, as The Hill reported. "There can be applicable FOIA exemptions that are based on both classified and unclassified rules. We have an obligation to ensure determinations as they relate to classification are made appropriately."

In a statement to CBS News, the FBI explained that the request to "re-review" one classified email was unrelated to the FBI's pending request for additional space for personnel abroad.

"The classification of the email was not changed, and it remains classified today," the FBI statement added. "Although there was never a quid pro quo, these allegations were nonetheless referred to the appropriate officials for review."

The FBI announced in July that Clinton would not be prosecuted for her handling of classified information in emails on a private server. That was perhaps the climax of a political saga The Christian Science Monitor's Peter Grier has described as "destined to last as long as the Broadway run of 'Cats.'" 

But it does not mean the former first lady has escaped the controversy unscathed, as Mr. Grier wrote:

That’s because FBI evidence disproves some of the key statements Clinton has made in her own defense. Most important, the agency found that 110 of Clinton’s emails were marked as “classified” when they were sent or received. Clinton has long said that she never knowingly handled secrets on her private system.

During a press call Monday morning, Clinton's campaign manager Robby Mook shrugged off the new allegation, as Politico reported.

"It's very well known that there were disputes between the State Department and other agencies about classification," Mr. Mook said. "It's not unusual."

In another FBI interview documented in Monday's release, an unnamed official accuses the State Department of peddling "an agenda which involves minimizing the classified nature" of Clinton's emails to protect her interests and those of the department.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, (R) of Wisc., released a statement again denouncing Clinton's handling of classified information and suggesting that James Clapper, the director of national intelligence (DNI), should have taken action against Clinton.

"This is exactly why I called on DNI Clapper to deny her access to classified information," Rep. Ryan said. "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. This is why our aggressive oversight work in the House is so important, and it will continue."

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