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FBI, State Dept. officials say no talk of email quid pro quo

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    Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy testified, on Sept. 8, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

WASHINGTON » A now-retired FBI agent and a State Department official involved in a discussion over the classification of information in one of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails said today they had discussed mutual agency requests but had not linked the two as a bargain, as another FBI employee had reported.

The two men’s accounts of a 2015 conversation were not identical and will likely not calm the furor over allegations of the State Department trying to arrange a “quid pro quo” to reduce the classification of an email from Clinton’s private server in exchange for more FBI positions at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. The issue was thrust into the presidential campaign Monday when the FBI published documents containing the allegation, which has been seized upon by Republican lawmakers and GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.

In a statement released by the State Department, Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy said he had called the agent, who was not named in the FBI documents but was identified by The Washington Post as Brian McCauley, “to better understand a proposal the FBI had made to upgrade one of former Secretary Clinton’s emails prior to its public release.”

Kennedy said he and other State Department officials wanted an explanation of the upgrade, which they believed was unnecessary.

“The FBI official I spoke to raised the topic of FBI Iraq slots as an entirely separate matter,” Kennedy said. “The two matters were not linked. There was no quid pro quo, nor was there any bargaining. At no point in our conversation was I under the impression we were bargaining. In the end, State upgraded the email at the FBI’s request and in addition, no increase in FBI Iraq slots resulted from this conversation.”

Kennedy was a close aide to Clinton during her tenure as the nation’s top diplomat between 2009 and early 2013. He had served in his position since November 2007, under President George W. Bush. In his statement, he denied any political motive in making the call.

In an interview with The Washington Post, McCauley, the former FBI international operations official, recalled a 2015 phone call in which he said the two men each raised something that they wanted.

“He said: ‘Brian. Pat Kennedy. I need a favor,’” McCauley told the Post. “I said: ‘Good, I need a favor. I need our people back in Baghdad.”

According to McCauley’s account, Kennedy replied: “There’s an email. I don’t believe it has to be classified.”

McCauley acknowledged to the Post that he had agreed to do a favor for Kennedy, but he said that after consulting with another FBI official about the email in question, he told Kennedy that he was unable to help him. He said there was no “collusion” between the two men and nothing improper occurred.

McCauley did not immediately respond to a phone message left in the mailbox of a company, Brainwave Science, that named him to its advisory board earlier this year.

The use of the phrase “quid pro quo” actually arises in a separate interview with a different FBI official from the bureau’s records management division.

That official, whose name is redacted in the documents, relayed to the FBI a conversation between Kennedy and a colleague in the international operations division — presumably McCauley — that was characterized as a “quid pro quo” agreement to change the email’s classification status in exchange for allowing the FBI to place more agents in countries where they are currently forbidden, according to a summary of the interview.

The email in question described reports in November 2012 that Libyan police were arresting suspects in the attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya. It had been forwarded to Clinton’s private email address by Jake Sullivan, one of her top aides and the department’s director of policy planning, who was using his government email account.

The Associated Press reported the existence of the secret Benghazi-related email in May 2015, though the classified content of the document has never been made public. At the time, administration officials acknowledged interagency disagreements about whether certain information in the emails was classified.

Although the State Department and FBI denied there had been a quid pro quo, Republicans seized on the report as collusion within the Obama administration to protect Clinton, now the Democratic presidential nominee.

“CORRUPTION CONFIRMED: FBI confirms State Dept. offered ‘quid pro quo’ to cover up classified emails,” read a tweet from Team Trump, retweeted by the candidate.

Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon said the campaign had never been part of any such discussion about email classifications.

House Republicans said Monday the reports of behind-the scenes maneuvering with the FBI were “extremely disturbing.”

“Those who receive classified intelligence should not barter in it — that is reckless behavior with our nation’s secrets,” House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said in a joint statement.

The ambiguities laid bare in the FBI documents — summaries of interviews — are fairly standard for criminal investigations, where different witnesses offer different accounts of the same interaction and agents and prosecutors behind closed doors are left to try to determine the truth.

The summaries being released in this case reflect what witnesses told agents without presenting an agreed upon or easily reconcilable narrative. In promising extraordinary transparency in the Clinton email investigation, FBI Director James Comey authorized the release of interview summaries and agents’ notes that are almost never seen by the public — particularly in cases that close without charges.

Associated Press writer Matthew Lee contributed to this report.

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  • Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif will definitely get to the bottom of this.

    Collusion, corruption and the Clinton/Obama administration.

    • Of course they will continue to attempt to create something out of nothing- otherwise they will be exposed as the partisan hacks they are- wasting taxpayer money. No one cares about this except the right-wing fringe.

      • You’re a Kool-Aid drinker. The clintons are the most corrupt family in politics. To not recognize that at this point, only outs you as a loon.

    • After all the resources spent on prolonged investigations into Clinton’s emails, Benghazi, and the Clinton Foundation, NOTHING criminal has been found. That’s why Hillary isn’t being prosecuted. We can only hope that Emperor Trump has mercy and doesn’t use too much waterboarding when she’s in jail.

      With all the money (OUR money) the Republicans have wasted on these substance-less investigations, they coulda built a 50-feet tall wall. Oh, never mind, because Donald is going to make Mexico pay for it. Yeah, right!

      • Sorry I have to correct the record. Hillary isn’t being prosecuted because she has many debts to pay to very rich, very white Wall St. bankers and other big business interests. And she’ll do that with taxpayer money thank you very much. Even the frontal lobotomy crowd is aware of that. Her ascendance to the throne has been fixed since Barry Hussein swiped the nomination from her 8 years ago. There’s way too much at stake for the rich and powerful to risk a Trump presidency.

  • It is a non-issue. After numerous investigations, she has not been charged much less found guilty in any court in America. Furthermore, Hillary may be a private person but she would not risk her career by loose talk of a deal with some low-level agent. No, she is our next president. Wall Street wants Hillary. WE all do though we know her to be flaWED as all presidents are.

    • Everything is did was overlooked. Obama and his gang of crooks all have a hand in this cover up.When dictaor Clinton gets in we can all kiss our sweet behinds goodbye. This election is fixed from the white house on down.

    • so in other words allie a low level agent like james comey the head of the FBI got 6 million dollars from the Clinton foundation defense fund back in 2013 before he came head of the FBI. go look it up and you will see it was reported in the Washington standard and the freedom outpost. so he is not suppose to be on this case because of conflict of interest. its the law. so I guess that’s what you mean by a low level agent.

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