Media outlets reported on Monday that a State Department official had offered the FBI favors in exchange for downgrading the classification of a Hillary Clinton email.
Patrick Kennedy, the current Undersecretary of State for Management, spoke to the FBI in June or July, as the two agencies were reviewing Clinton's emails before releasing them publicly. The FBI posted redacted versions of its interview notes online.
However, the true story is more complicated.
The notes state at one point, "[REDACTED] received a call from [REDACTED] of the International Operations Division (IOD) of the FBI, who 'pressured' him to change the classified email to unclassified. [REDACTED] indicated he had been contacted by PATRICK KENNEDY, Undersecretary of State, who had asked his assistance in altering the email's classification in exchange for a 'quid pro quo.'"
That "quid pro quo" was later described as the ability to place more agents in foreign nations. The FBI did not change the classified messages in question to unclassified.
Classification is an art, not a science, and individuals with classification authority sometimes have different views.
The State Dept.'s take
State Dept. spokesman Mark Toner denied that a "quid pro quo" exchange occurred, saying the department upgraded the document's classification in 2015.
The FBI's take
The FBI released a statement saying the official involved in the interview with Kennedy is now retired, and was not involved in the Clinton investigation. It denied that any "quid pro quo" exchange ever took place.
Another interview revealed it was the FBI asking about placing more agents in Iraq, not the State Department, CNN reports. The agent even said he would look into re-classifying an email if the State Department offered more agents, not the other way around.
Furthermore, the FBI statement said the classification was not tied to any political agenda, but clarifying for Freedom of Information Act procedures.
The email was determined "classified" by the FBI, and a State official requested a re-review to see if the email was protected by another FOIA exemption.
Ultimately, no additional FBI agents were placed as a result of this conversation.
Despite the context, Donald Trump called the announcement "unbelievable."
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.
Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook told Politico the discussion was merely a disagreement over classification status. But House Speaker Paul Ryan thought it more suspicious.
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