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FBI, State Department Say No Quid Pro Quo on Clinton Email

The document focuses attention on talks about which parts of Clinton's emails should have been be marked classified before release to the public.
IMAGE: Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton speaks to volunteers at a campaign office Friday in Seattle.Andrew Harnik / AP

A newly released FBI document indicates that a bureau employee claimed a colleague had discussed a "quid pro quo" in 2015 with a top State Department official regarding former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's email.

Both agencies deny the account and say no deal took place. That didn't stop Clinton's Republican presidential opponent, Donald Trump, from seizing on the news Monday and calling for the State Department official's resignation.

The account was part of an FBI document known as a 302, essentially a summary of interviews the FBI conducts during investigations. The FBI made it public Monday in response to Freedom of Information Act requests regarding the bureau's investigation of a private server Clinton used while secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.

The document sheds no new light on the emails itself, but it does focus attention on interagency discussions that took place regarding which parts of her emails should be marked classified before being released to the public.

Analysis: Clinton Haters and Lovers Feel Vindicated By Email Leaks

As secretary of state, Clinton used a private email account to conduct government business, and that email account was kept on a private server at Clinton's home. It became the subject of a House Oversight Committee investigation, which first began looking into her email in connection with an attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya in 2012.

Clinton, the Democratic nominee for president, has said repeatedly that the use of a private email account was a mistake. The FBI examined her use of the private server — including emails that were recovered from the server — and found more than 100 that contained information that was classified, according to FBI Director James B. Comey. Other emails were classified retroactively because of information they contained.

IMAGE: Patrick Kennedy
Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy testifies Sept. 8 before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in Washington.Molly Riley / AP

As part of the interagency discussion of the emails' classification, Patrick Kennedy, the undersecretary of state for management, originally contacted the FBI about a single email that was in dispute. That is when an unnamed FBI official appeared to offer what another FBI employee later described in the 302 as a "quid pro quo."

The entire episode appears to have been borne out of two separate conversations and a misunderstanding: One conversation took place between Kennedy and the FBI official; the other was between the same FBI official and a bureau employee whose job involved classification review.

Kennedy had called the FBI and asked that an email that the FBI was considering labeling as "secret" remain unclassified. But Kennedy wound up talking to an official, now retired, who worked in the agency's international operations division and was not involved in the email review.

Separately, that FBI official had been trying to reach Kennedy about the issue of office space for agents in overseas embassies and consulates because Kennedy had a say in allocating space at diplomatic outposts.

After Kennedy raised the issue of classification, the FBI official raised the issue of office space, according to the FBI document.

The official then reported his contact with Kennedy to another FBI employee, saying he thought that Kennedy might be willing to consider office space in return for a change in classification. According to the FBI report, that employee then told a colleague that he felt "pressured" over what he believed was a "quid pro quo."

In the end, the FBI won the classification argument, and the State Department agreed to upgrade the email to "secret." No increase in the FBI's slots in Baghdad resulted from the conversation, and the FBI ordered a review of the conduct of the now-retired FBI official.

But just the appearance of the words "quid pro quo" was enough for both Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan to respond. Both reacted as if Kennedy, and not the FBI, had proposed the deal.

"The news that top Clinton aide Patrick Kennedy tried to engage in a blatant quid pro quo for changing the classification level of several of Clinton's emails shows a cavalier attitude towards protecting our nation's secrets," Trump spokesman Jason Miller said in a statement.

"Kennedy must resign from the State Department immediately and Clinton must state he has no place in her administration if she is elected President," Miller said.

On the campaign trail in Ohio, Trump's vice presidential running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, told a crowd: "According to documents released by the FBI today, one of Hillary Clinton's top, top aides — undersecretary of state — contacted the FBI to ask the FBI to change the classified status of emails on Hillary Clinton's private server in exchange for a quid pro quo."