The State Department and FBI are categorically denying that they negotiated any “quid pro quo” to declassify a Benghazi-related email found on Hillary Clinton’s private email server, as newly-released FBI documents show what was allegedly discussed.
The new documents, which are detailed notes of FBI interviews during the investigation into Clinton’s private server, further describe how the State Department “pressured” other agencies into declassifying emails those agencies believed should have been kept secret. The documents were requested by Congressional investigators and became public on Monday as part of an existing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
Around spring of last year, under secretary for management at the State Department, Patrick F. Kennedy, called a now-retired official with the FBI’s International Operations Division (IOD). He asked for “assistance” in changing the classification of one email because it “caused problems” for him, according to notes of the FBI official’s interview with federal investigators.
“Not yet knowing the email’s content, [the FBI official] told Kennedy he would look into the email in question if Kennedy would provide authority concerning the FBI’s request to increase its personnel in Iraq.”
After checking with the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, Kennedy was told “there was no way” to help declassify the email, according to the IOD official’s interview notes.
But Kennedy didn’t back down. At one point, he took the matter directly to the head of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, Michael Steinbach, pleading with him to change the email’s classification, the notes said.
“Steinbach refused to do so,” according to the notes.