Clinton aide: Watchdog colluding with Republicans on emails

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A spokesman for Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonLimbaugh: FBI wants focus off WikiLeaks Voting for Clinton is voting for Obama's dead-in-the-water economy DNC chair on media reaction to FBI letter: 'Good grief' MORE on Wednesday said an inspector general who found highly classified emails on the former secretary of State’s private server was colluding with congressional Republicans to smear the Democratic presidential front-runner.

“Actually, I think this was a very coordinated leak yesterday,” Brian Fallon said on CNN’s “New Day.”

He said the inspector general issued a similar report in August and was upset when his findings were called into question.

“So he put two Republican senators up to sending him a letter so that he would have an excuse to resurface the same allegations he made back in the summer that have been discredited," Fallon said, adding that "Republicans are continuing to try to trump it up and resurface these allegations for the purpose of hurting her campaign.”

Tuesday's report, issued by the intelligence community’s internal watchdog, Inspector General I. Charles McCullough III, found emails on Clinton’s server marked “special access programs” (SAP), a classification level above “top secret” and restricted on a “need-to-know” basis.

“To date, I have received two sworn declarations from one [intelligence community] element,” McCullough said in a letter to Congress. “These declarations cover several dozen emails containing classified information determined by the IC element to be at the CONFIDENTIAL, SECRET, and TOP SECRET/SAP levels.”

Fallon dismissed the report, saying it rehashed an “inter-agency dispute about what’s classified and what’s not.”

“The State Department has attested that these emails that were on Hillary Clinton’s system were not classified at the time they were sent or received,” he said.

The inspector general said he found “several dozen” emails containing classified information in his review, but Fallon said the dispute may boil down to a single email in which Clinton forwarded a New York Times article.

“But, interestingly, there was a very important report last night by Politico that suggested that what’s at issue here is just a forwarding of a New York Times article on the drone program that was being conducted in Pakistan,” he said.

“I think most Americans if they saw the actual emails would agree that it is a fabrication to suggest that the forwarding of a news article should be treated as a mishandling of classified information,” he added.

Fallon also said the inspector general is being intentionally vague about which emails were classified.

“Well the Inspector General has been quite deliberately vague in his allegations,” he said. “He suggested there is classified material, but then has refused to point to which emails he’s talking about.”

Republicans said Fallon's allegation reeks of desperation, noting that McCullough was nominated to his post by President Obama in 2011 and confirmed unanimously by a Democrat-controlled Senate.

"How unhinged are these guys right now?" Republican National Committee spokesman Michael Short said in a statement to The Hill.

"The Clinton campaign is now desperately trying to convince voters that the intelligence community’s independent watchdog, nominated by President Obama and confirmed unanimously by the then-Democrat controlled Senate, is part of the ‘vast right-wing conspiracy,'" he added. "Give. Me. A. Break."

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.), one of the recipients of the inspector general's letter, denied the Clinton campaign's allegation.

"I won't comment on the letter, but I can comment that I didn’t conspire with anybody," Burr told reporters in the Senate basement on Wednesday.

--This report was updated at 3:56 p.m.