State Department spokesman Mark Toner denied Monday that any discussion of a "quid pro quo" took place between senior State official Patrick Kennedy and the FBI regarding the declassification of at least one of Hillary Clinton’s emails from her private server, calling such a charge "insulting."
The Weekly Standard reported Sunday that, according to FBI documents, Kennedy wanted to keep one of Clinton’s emails from the public through an exemption under the Freedom of Information Act. In return, according to the FBI interview, the agency wanted Kennedy to authorize a request for more FBI personnel in Iraq, which did not end up happening:
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The FBI records official says that his colleague "pressured" him to declassify an email "in exchange for a quid pro quo," according to the interview summary. "In exchange for making the email unclassified State would reciprocate by allowing the FBI to place more agents in countries where they are presently forbidden." The request was denied.
The FBI has denied any quid pro quo was offered. Addressing the controversy at the beginning of Monday’s press briefing, Toner also said there was no quid pro quo and such a claim did not align with the facts.
"Pat Kennedy sought to understand the FBI’s process for withholding certain information from public release, and as all of you know, throughout this process, we were very clear in talking about, at times, that the decision to upgrade or not upgrade certain parts of emails was a topic of discussion among our inter-agency colleagues, about whether certain information should or should not be upgraded in classification," he said.
Associated Press reporter Matt Lee asked Toner whether there was any discussion of a quid pro quo at all.
"No," Toner said.
"Just so we’re perfectly clear, there was no discussion of any quid pro quo?" another reported asked.
"No," Toner said. "There was no discussion."
"Was there any discussion of any kind of an exchange with regard to classification procedures on the one hand and FBI slots in U.S. embassies on the other?" the reporter asked.
"No," Toner said.
Fox News reporter Catherine Herridge said Toner’s remark was in contradiction to the FBI summaries, known as 302s, which said such a discussion took place.
The FBI 302 report states: "[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.’ "[Redacted] advised that in exchange for marking the email unclassified, STATE would reciprocate by allowing the FBI to place more Agents in countries where they are presently forbidden."
"I mean, this conflicts directly with what you’re saying today," Herridge said after reading it aloud.
"I’m sorry," Toner said, smiling. "I could speak to the fact that 302s are simply interviews conducted by the FBI."
"So you’re saying the FBI agent either got it wrong or is lying in this 302?" Herridge asked.
"I can’t speak to what his or her intentions were, saying these kinds of things, but clearly expressing a personal opinion about what happened," Toner said. "Any, really, assertion that this was somehow tit for tat or quid pro quo, exchange in that manner, really, frankly is insulting."
Toner said there were inter-agency disagreements on classification upgrades, but Herridge cut over him to read another bit of the FBI report: "Kennedy spent the next 15 minutes debating the classification of the email and attempting to influence the FBI to change its markings."
"Is that in keeping with the high ethical standards of the State Department?" Herridge asked.
"I’m not going to debate every point and every excerpt from these 302s, but what you just read to me sounds like it was a discussion on whether a certain portion of the email should or should not be classified," Toner said.