GOP chairmen: Fire State Dept. official over 'quid pro quo' allegations

GOP chairmen: Fire State Dept. official over 'quid pro quo' allegations
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Two Republican House chairmen are calling on the Obama administration to fire a senior State Department official accused of engaging in a quid pro quo deal with the FBI regarding the classification of some of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonClinton campaign chief: Mueller report 'lays out a devastating case' against Trump Hillicon Valley: Cyber, tech takeaways from Mueller report | Millions of Instagram passwords exposed internally by Facebook | DHS unrolling facial recognition tech in airports | Uber unveils new safety measures after student's killing Heavily redacted Mueller report leaves major questions unanswered MORE’s emails.

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"Those who receive classified intelligence should not barter in it — that is reckless behavior with our nation's secrets. Someone who would try to get classification markings doctored should not continue serving in the State Department or retain access to classified information,” House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzLawmakers contemplate a tough political sell: Raising their pay Top Utah paper knocks Chaffetz as he mulls run for governor: ‘His political career should be over’ Boehner working on memoir: report MORE (R-Utah) and Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said in a statement on Monday.

“Therefore, President Obama and Secretary [of State John] Kerry should immediately remove Under Secretary [Patrick Kennedy] pending a full investigation."

Both the FBI and the State Department have vehemently denied the allegations of quid pro quo, which came in newly released documents from the bureau's investigation of the private email setup Clinton used while she was secretary of State. White House press secretary Josh Earnest on Monday afternoon also blasted Chaffetz.

“When you consider who might be a bad messenger when it comes to prosecuting these criticisms, I might have in mind a congressman who passes around an official business card with a Gmail email address on it — and that’s exactly what Congressman Chaffetz has done,” Earnest said.

“It doesn’t put him in a very good position to be criticizing the email habits of other people when he’s engaged in the worst kind of that behavior.”

Documents released Monday morning revealed that two FBI officials told investigators Kennedy had pressured the agency to alter the “top secret” classification of an email regarding possible arrests in the Benghazi attacks because it “caused problems.”

Kennedy allegedly petitioned officials to declassify the document and place it under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) exemption that “would allow him to archive the document in the basement of [the Department of State] never to be seen again.”

According to the two unnamed officials, there was some discussion about a potential quid pro quo arrangement under which the FBI would declassify the document in exchange for expanded authority in Iraq.

The email, from Nov. 18, 2012, remains classified and has since been made public with redactions.

The FBI did not increase its presence in Iraq as a result of this conversation, according to State Department spokesman Mark Toner.

The conversations that Kennedy had with officials about downgrading the classification of the email in question are a normal part of the classification process, Toner said in a statement.

“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. We have an obligation to ensure determinations as they relate to classification are made appropriately,” Toner said in a statement.

The FBI ultimately recommended no criminal charges against Clinton. But Republicans, who say the FBI mishandled its probe, immediately seized on the revelations as evidence of wrongdoing of the State Department.

“A senior State Department official’s attempt to pressure the FBI to hide the extent of [Clinton’s mishandling of classified information] bears all the signs of a coverup. This is why our aggressive oversight work in the House is so important, and it will continue,” Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said in a statement.

Chaffetz and Nunes on Monday sent letters to both Kerry and Inspector General Steve Linick demanding an investigation into Kennedy’s conduct.

“We believe that Under Secretary Kennedy may have inappropriately influenced the review of Secretary Clinton’s emails,” the two chairs wrote Kerry.

“Until a proper investigation can examine the Under Secretary’s behavior and assure the public that he is not carrying out his duties in a corrupt, biased or underhanded manner, we request that you remove him pending an independent investigation.”