Newt Gingrich: Obama needs to clean house at State. He must start with Patrick Kennedy

The release this week of FBI documents describing the attempted cover up of Hillary Clinton’s email scandal raises a host of questions about the State Department’s integrity and the role of its senior officials in protecting the Democratic nominee for president.

Among the most disturbing revelations involve the activities of Undersecretary of State Patrick Kennedy. As first reported by Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard, in 2015 Kennedy repeatedly pressured the FBI to change its classification determinations on Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Indeed, Kennedy went to extreme lengths to prevent the public from learning that Hillary Clinton mishandled classified information, including so far as to pursue a secret “quid pro quo” deal in which the State Department was to approve FBI requests for overseas posts in exchange for reclassifying some of Hillary Clinton’s sensitive emails. As Hayes reports:

[An] FBI official [in the international operations division] spoke with Kennedy and Kennedy raised the possibility of keeping at least one Clinton email from public disclosure by obtaining a “B9” exemption under the Freedom of Information Act, a rarely used exemption that refers to “geological and geophysical information and data.” One email in particular concerned Kennedy and, according to the FBI summary, providing a B9 exemption “would allow him to archive the document in the basement of the department of state never to be seen again.” The FBI official told Kennedy that he would look into the email if Kennedy would authorize a pending request for additional FBI personnel in Iraq.

In other words, the Undersecretary of State contacted someone who likely had nothing to do with the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private server–a senior FBI official in the international operations division–and told him that if he wanted State to approve the FBI’s request to send agents to Iraq, he should find a way to make Hillary’s worst email problems go away.

Not only did Kennedy try to interfere in a criminal investigation; not only did he try to induce the FBI to improperly reclassify sensitive national security documents; he also tried to hold our intelligence and investigative capabilities overseas hostage to Hillary Clinton’s political interests.

That is a staggering attempted abuse of power.

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Not only did Kennedy try to interfere in a criminal investigation; not only did he try to induce the FBI to improperly reclassify sensitive national security documents; he also tried to hold our intelligence and investigative capabilities overseas hostage to Hillary Clinton’s political interests.

It is a breathtaking revelation.

The FBI official to whom Kennedy proposed the deal to then approached the chief of the Bureau’s records management division. As Hayes reports:

The FBI records official, whose job includes making determinations on classification, told investigators that he was approached by his colleague in international operations after the initial discussion with Kennedy. The FBI records official says that his colleague “pressured” him to declassify an email “in exchange for a quid pro quo,” according to the interview summary. “In exchange for making the email unclassified State would reciprocate by allowing the FBI to place more agents in countries where they are presently forbidden.” The request was denied.

Even after the FBI rejected Kennedy’s proposed “deal” to cover up for Hillary Clinton, he continued his attempts to corrupt the Bureau’s classification process:

In the days that followed, the FBI records official attended an “all-agency” meeting at the State Department to discuss the ongoing “classification review of pending Clinton FOIA materials.” One of the participants at the meeting asked Kennedy whether any of the emails were classified. Kennedy purposely looked at the FBI records chief and then replied: “Well, we’ll see.”

After the all-agency meeting, the FBI records section chief met privately with Kennedy. According the FBI interview summary, he reported that “Kennedy spent the next 15 minutes debating the classification of the email and attempting to influence the FBI to change its markings.”

This is absolutely scandalous.

Kennedy was one of Hillary Clinton’s closest advisers during her time as Secretary of State, a man who twice denied Ambassador Christopher Stevens’ personal requests for more security in Libya.

His outrageous attempt to cover up for her should absolutely disqualify him from holding public office ever again.

But it’s not just Kennedy who needs to be fired.

As the Washington Examiner notes, the new FBI documents reveal the State Department took the highly unusual step of including outsiders in its public information request review process. According to the documents, the FBI thought these outsiders’ employment histories “appeared to create a conflict of interest”.

We can only begin to guess who they were and whose interest they had in mind.

The Washington Examiner also points out that employees involved in the State Department’s FOIA review process told the FBI they felt “immense pressure” not to find any classified information in documents relating to Benghazi.

Finally, the FBI documents reveal a conspiracy of senior officials to minimize political damage of the emails to Hillary Clinton. According to the Washington Examiner:

A group of high-ranking State Department officials, dubbed the “Shadow Government” by witnesses who spoke to the FBI, pushed to release all 30,000 of Clinton’s emails at the same time, in Jan. 2016, rather than over the course of several months starting in summer 2015.

The powerful group met every Wednesday afternoon to discuss how to handle FOIA requests for Clinton’s emails. Regular attendees included Secretary John Kerry’s chief of staff and Kennedy.
“Shadow Government” members argued the release of Clinton’s emails should happen all at once to facilitate “coordination.”

If Secretary of State John Kerry’s top aides attended weekly meetings to minimize the impact of Hillary’s misconduct on her political ambitions, the corruption and politicization of the State Department goes to the very top.

President Obama should clean house. And he should start with Undersecretary of State Patrick Kennedy.

Newt Gingrich, a Republican, was speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1995 to 1999. He is the author of the new novel “Treason” (Center Street, October 11) and co-author, with his wife Callista Gingrich, of “Rediscovering God in America: Reflections on the Role of Faith in Our Nation’s History and Future” (Center Street, May 17, 2016).

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