In an October 18 interview, a retired FBI official explained to the Washington Post how recent accusations about a “quid pro quo” agreement between the FBI and the Department of State over the classification of a Hillary Clinton email are false.
On October 17, media outlets began reporting on interview transcripts released by the FBI concerning the now-closed FBI investigation into the private email server used by Democratic presidential nominee Clinton while serving as secretary of state.
Based on the transcripts and a previous article in The Weekly Standard that suggested an “attempted Hillary email cover-up,” claims began to circulate that a “quid pro quo” was proposed by government officials where the FBI would agree to lower the classification level of one of Clinton’s emails if the State Department would agree to allow the posting of more FBI agents in Iraq. Although both the FBI and State denied that characterization of events, reporters nonetheless ran with the story, leading to sometimes sloppy reporting.
Furthering the smear about a “Hillary cover-up,” right-wing media claimed that the “quid pro quo” was proposed by a top official at the State Department, Patrick Kennedy, even though the FBI official who spoke to Kennedy indicated in the transcripts that the issue of agents in Iraq was brought up by him, not Kennedy.
The Trump campaign was even blunter, baselessly tweeting “corrruption confirmed.”
Now Brian McCauley, the FBI official who had the conversation with Kennedy and whose name was redacted in the transcripts, has confirmed that there never was a “quid pro quo” proposed by either McCauley or Kennedy. The Post also noted that “There is no evidence that Clinton knew about Kennedy’s and McCauley’s discussion, and McCauley said Kennedy never even invoked Clinton’s name.”
From the October 18 article:
FBI official Brian McCauley had been trying for weeks to get his contact at the State Department to approve his request to put two bureau employees back in Baghdad.
Around May 2015, Patrick Kennedy finally called back.
“He said, ‘Brian. Pat Kennedy. I need a favor,’ ” McCauley recalled in an interview Tuesday. “I said, ‘Good, I need a favor. I need our people back in Baghdad.”
Then Kennedy, a longtime State Department official, explained what he wanted in return: “There’s an email. I don’t believe it has to be classified.”
The email was from Hillary Clinton’s private server, and Kennedy wanted the FBI to change its determination that it contained classified information. McCauley and others ultimately rejected the request, but the interaction — which McCauley said lasted just minutes over maybe two conversations — has become the latest focal point of the bitter 2016 presidential campaign. The Democratic candidate’s critics have suggested that the conversation between the State Department and the FBI demonstrated inappropriate collusion to benefit Clinton.
In an hour-long interview with The Washington Post, his first public comments on the matter, McCauley acknowledged that he offered to do a favor in exchange for another favor, but before he had any inkling of what Kennedy wanted. The FBI and the State Department have denied that McCauley and Kennedy ever engaged in a “quid pro quo.”
McCauley, who has since retired from the FBI, said he asked Kennedy to send him the email in question and then inquired with another bureau official about it because he had only a partial understanding of the request. McCauley said that when he learned the missive concerned the attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, he told Kennedy he could not help him.
“I said, ‘Absolutely not, I can’t help you,’ and he took that, and it was fine,” said McCauley, who was the FBI’s deputy assistant director for international operations from 2012 to 2015.
McCauley said in an interview that when he agreed to look into the matter, he “was just being kind and polite.” And he said “there was no contingency” binding his looking into the email classification to Kennedy’s agreeing to approve his request for FBI personnel in Iraq.
“He had a request. I found out what the request was for. I absolutely said emphatically I would not support it,” McCauley said.
But one of his colleagues at the FBI’s records division told investigators that McCauley relayed his conversation with Kennedy in a way that suggested Kennedy had offered a “quid pro quo,” according to a summary of that official’s interview. McCauley disputed that characterization.
“That’s a reach,” McCauley said. “I said, ‘Hey, what is this about?’ ”