Republicans pressured the State Department on Monday to remove Undersecretary for Management Patrick Kennedy after newly released FBI records showed he offered a “quid pro quo” with federal authorities during the Hillary Clinton email probe.
Documents revealed claims that Kennedy tried to horse-trade with the FBI, offering additional slots for the bureau overseas if they would de-classify a particular email from Clinton’s server marked “SECRET.” The files also revealed he repeatedly tried to “influence” the bureau’s decision when his offer was denied, even taking his plea up the chain of command. The allegation of a “quid pro quo” was first reported by Fox News on Saturday.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said at a campaign rally in Wisconsin that the new revelation was worse than Watergate.
“This is one of the great miscarriages of justice in the history of our country,” he said.
Trump went on to accuse the State Department of “trying to cover up Hillary’s crimes of sending classified information on a server our enemies could easily access.”
He also blasted Kennedy, saying his actions were a sign of a “cover-up.”
“The FBI documents show that Under-Secretary of State Patrick Kennedy made the request for altering classification as part of a ‘quid pro quo,’ in other words a deal,” Trump told supporters. “This is felony corruption. Under-Secretary Kennedy needs to resign.”
On Tuesday morning, State Department spokesman John Kirby insisted on “Fox & Friends” there was no quid pro quo as described in the FBI documents.
Before his rally Monday, Trump described the actions by the State Department to Fox News’ Carl Cameron as “a criminal act,” while also hurling criticisms at fellow Republicans.
“It’s a crime, and I hear the Republicans are going to hold hearings after the election, why would you hold them after the election? We want to hold those hearings before the election,” Trump said. “It’s a criminal act and it’s incredible that they can do this and get away with it.”
Earlier, Republican lawmakers pounced on the revelation, calling for Kennedy’s removal or resignation.
In a joint statement, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., called Kennedy’s actions “extremely disturbing” and “reckless.”
“Someone who would try to get classification markings doctored should not continue serving in the State Department or retain access to classified information. Therefore, President Obama and Secretary Kerry should immediately remove Under Secretary Kennedy pending a full investigation,” they said.
North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, a Republican, hammered Clinton and the State Department in a series of tweets.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said in a statement that Kennedy should be “removed immediately.”
“The fact that Under Secretary Kennedy allegedly ‘pressured’ the FBI to change the classification of an email to benefit Secretary Clinton as part of a ‘quid pro quo’ after her behavior came to light is alarming, and a sign of just how corrupt the State Department became under her tenure. Kennedy should be removed from his position immediately until a real investigation is completed.”
Even as pressure ramped up, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Kennedy isn’t going anywhere. Toner also denied there was any proposed deal, saying the FBI official first raised the number of bureau personnel approved to be in Iraq at the end of the phone call as a separate issue.
As for the FBI official’s account, he said, “I can’t speak to what this person’s intent, whether they misunderstood the atmosphere of that conversation, I have no idea. All I can say is that there was no quid pro quo.”
Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon downplayed the release, saying there was strong disagreement among government agencies about the decisions to retroactively classify material that had been sent to the then-secretary of state. He said Clinton’s campaign played no part in that debate.