State Department spokesman John Kirby on Tuesday made the morning news show rounds to deny that any quid pro quo had occurred between the FBI and State Department Under-Secretary Patrick Kennedy to downgrade one of Hillary Clinton's emails.
"We looked into this," Kirby told Fox News' "Fox and Friends" program. "The FBI looked into this, and it’s just not true. There was no quid pro quo even suggested or any kind of bargain laid on the table."
An official in the FBI's records management division accused Kennedy, Undersecretary for Management, of pushing last year to have one of the emails from the private email server Clinton used while she was secretary of state downgraded to unclassified. In exchange, Kennedy reportedly said State would allow the FBI to place its agents in more countries.
On Monday, State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner denied the allegations, and on Tuesday, Kirby headed out for his series of interviews where he said the FBI had notes about a potential quid pro quo, but "there was no quid pro quo even suggested or any bargain laid on the table."
However, the claim, made by an unnamed official, surfaced on Monday among 100 pages of notes the FBI released on Monday from its now-closed investigation about the email server, and used the words "quid pro quo," reports Politico.
"[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,” the FBI wrote. "[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.'"
Kirby did admit Kennedy had called the FBI, but it was to "get a little bit better understanding about why they wanted one particular email classified secret." Kirby told CNN on Tuesday the State Department did not believe the email needed to remain classified.
"The FBI held firm to their position, and the email remained classified. And that, you know, that email redacted is on our website," Kirby told CNN. "But there was no bargain sought by the FBI. There was no bargain rendered. This was simply an interagency conversation about the classification over one particular email. So there was no wrongdoing here."
There was a conversation about adding FBI agents to Iraq, but it was separate from the classification request, and to link them is not accurate, Kirby told CNN's Chris Cuomo.
"Remember Chris, what we're talking about are notes from an interview," Kirby said. "We're not talking about this document that you're talking about that got released. It's not facts, it's not conclusions, it's not investigative results. It's notes from an interview."
Kirby continued that he can't speak to the individual who reported the incident and interpret his or her intentions, but "we looked at it and found absolutely nothing wrong. The FBI put out a lengthy statement about this phone conversation and what it was and more importantly what it wasn't."
The State Department spokesman told Fox News, though, that he does not blame the FBI for the growing controversy.
"What I'm saying is that both the State Department and FBI looked into this and there was no bargain even suggested," said Kirby.
Further, the person who said the phrase "quid pro quo" was neither Kennedy or the FBI officer, and the FBI itself "gave a very detailed statement right after the story broke, that explained in detail how it came about."
Kirby said he can understand the curiosity raised by the emails, but insisted there was nothing there.
"Nobody can call Pat Kennedy a surrogate for anybody except for the United States and the State Department," said Kirby. "He's been a loyal public servant for four decades. He's a very dedicated man to his job. He was simply doing his job and debating with the FBI with our view on this particular email."
On MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program, Kirby commented that government agencies all have their own views on openness, but State is an outward facing organization, and pointed out the act of diplomacy depends on dialogue and discussion.
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"You would also expect that agencies that have a different world view in terms of how we're looking at information will debate and discuss and argue over the degree of classification," Kirby said. "When we went through that 55,000 pages of e-mails that former secretary Clinton passed over to us, we processed them through the Freedom of Information Act, but we wanted to take a different view on some of those e-mails than other agencies."
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