The FBI quietly released nearly 300 pages of records from its investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server on Sunday night.
This is the fifth release of Clinton investigation records from the FBI. The documents deal with the handling of computer hardware collected from Clinton’s lawyers for the investigation and also contain emails from FBI officials discussing the classification of Clinton’s emails.
The FBI has previously released notes from interviews it conducted during its investigation of Clinton’s handling of classified information. FBI director James Comey declined to recommend that Clinton be charged in the case, and Attorney General Loretta Lynch accepted that advice.
The emails included in the documents are from the months prior to the formal opening of the Clinton email probe, which occurred on July 10, 2015. The exchanges show disagreements between the FBI and State Department over whether some of Clinton’s personal emails should be classified.
In one April 27, 2015 email, an FBI official wrote to other officials that they were “about to get drug into an issue on classification” of Clinton’s emails. The official, whose name is redacted, said that the State Department was “forum shopping,” or seeking a favorable opinion on the classification issue by asking different officials to rate emails as unclassified.
Other email traffic sheds light on a controversy involving State Department under secretary for management Patrick Kennedy and a request he made in 2015 that the FBI reduce its classification of a Clinton email related to the Sept. 11, 2012 attacks in Benghazi.
Clinton investigation notes released by the FBI in October showed that an FBI official said during an interview as part of the email probe that Kennedy asked him and others at the FBI to relax classifications on some emails.
The new FBI release contains a May 21, 2015 email in which Michael Steinbach, the FBI’s assistant director of the counterterrorism division, detailed a conversation he had with Kennedy about the classification issue.
Steinbach said that the FBI had determined that one of Clinton’s emails should be classified using b(1) and b(7) redactions, used to protect information in the interest of national defense and to prevent the disclosure of a confidential source, respectively. Kennedy asked Steinbach to classify the email using only the b(1) category.
An email sent two days earlier from a separate FBI official provided more information about the dispute.
The official, whose name is redacted, wrote that the Clinton email was redacted and classified on the rationale that it contained information that would cause “interference with foreign relations.”
The FBI official wrote that the email could disclose sources and investigative methods used by the bureau.
“While the email does not name the particular official, this might be deduced and, given the threat of violence in the region, any surmise could be fatal for whoever cooperated with us,” the official wrote.
“State will say no one will know if it is redacted, but that is not how classification works,” they added.
The official wrote that he informed Kennedy of that rationale and that Kennedy said he would be in contact with Steinbach.
The FBI release also includes an email from the attorney of Bryan Pagliano, the Hillary Clinton State Department aide who set up and managed her secret email server. In the email, Mark MacDougall, Pagliano’s lawyer, informed the FBI that Pagliano would decline the bureau’s request for an investigation. Pagliano would eventually meet with the FBI in December, but only after receiving limited immunity from the Department of Justice.