A new trove of interview summaries and notes from the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails lays out a series of allegations that could prove fodder for future attacks on the Democratic presidential nominee.
The 100 pages, released Monday morning, include claims that Clinton “blatantly” disregarded protocol. Other claims include that a group of powerful State Department employees attempted to coordinate a document release, and that a department official asked for a “quid pro quo” related to the former secretary of state’s emails.
The documents, part four of four to be released by the FBI, include notes and interview summaries that may illuminate more about the bureau’s decision not to recommend Clinton be prosecuted for her actions.
Many Republicans have criticized that decision, but FBI Director James Comey has repeatedly insisted the move was apolitical.
“I want the American people to know we really did this the right way. You can disagree with us, but you cannot fairly say we did it in any kind of political way,” Comey said in July. “We don’t carry water for anybody. We were trying to do what the right thing is.”
One revelation in the documents came from an interview with an unidentified person who suggested that Freedom of Information Act requests related to Clinton went through a group sometimes called “the Shadow Government.”
“There was a powerful group of very high-ranking STATE officials that some referred to as ‘The 7th Floor Group’ or ‘The Shadow Government.’ This group met every Wednesday afternoon to discuss the FOIA process, Congressional records, and everything CLINTON-related to FOIA/Congressional inquiries,” the FBI’s interview summary said.
That group, according to the summary, argued for a Clinton document release to be conducted all at once “for coordination purposes” instead of on a rolling basis as would normally be the case. But the “Shadow Government” did not get its way, and the agency in charge decided for a rolling release, the FBI summary said.
Another claim from the documents is that one unidentified interviewee said Undersecretary of State Patrick Kennedy pressured the FBI to unclassify certain emails from Clinton’s private server that were previously deemed classified.
The interviewee said Kennedy contacted the FBI to ask for the change in classification in “exchange for a ‘quid pro quo.'”
A representative for the State Department categorically denied that claim.
“This allegation is inaccurate and does not align with the facts. To be clear: the State Department did upgrade the document at the request of the FBI when we released it back in May 2015,” State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said.
“Under Secretary Kennedy sought to understand the FBI’s process for withholding certain information from public release,” Toner added. “As has been reported, there have been discussions within the interagency on issues of classification. Classification is an art, not a science, and individuals with classification authority sometimes have different views. There can be applicable FOIA exemptions that are based on both classified and unclassified rules.”
The FBI also denied such a “quid pro quo,” offering NBC News the following statement:
“Prior to the initiation of the FBI’s investigation of former Secretary Clinton’s personal email server, the FBI was asked to review and make classification determinations on FBI emails and information which were being produced by the State Department pursuant to FOIA. The FBI determined that one such email was classified at the Secret level. A senior State Department official requested the FBI re-review that email to determine whether it was in fact classified or whether it might be protected from release under a different FOIA exemption. A now-retired FBI official, who was not part of the subsequent Clinton investigation, told the State Department official that they would look into the matter. Having been previously unsuccessful in attempts to speak with the senior State official, during the same conversation, the FBI official asked the State Department official if they would address a pending, unaddressed FBI request for space for additional FBI employees assigned abroad. Following the call, the FBI official consulted with a senior FBI executive responsible for determining the classification of the material and determined the email was in fact appropriately classified at the Secret level. The FBI official subsequently told the senior State official that the email was appropriately classified at the Secret level and that the FBI would not change the classification of the email. The classification of the email was not changed, and it remains classified today. Although there was never a quid pro quo, these allegations were nonetheless referred to the appropriate officials for review.”
Separately, one claim from the FBI documents that was receiving attention online was that one interviewee said there was a “stark difference” between Clinton’s “obedience to security and diplomatic protocols” and that of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Clinton, the interviewee said, “blatantly” disregarded such protocols, including her frequent refusal to attend foreign diplomatic functions with the local ambassador.
“This frequently resulted in complaints by ambassadors who were insulted and embarrassed by this breach of protocol,” the interview summary said, adding that the subject claimed that “Clinton’s protocol breaches were well known throughout Diplomatic Security and were ‘abundant.'”
By Everett Rosenfeld