Not April Fools: State Department Suspends Probe Of “Top Secret” Clinton Emails Pending FBI Investigation
The State Department has suspended its internal review into whether former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton mishandled emails containing information now deemed “top secret”, while the FBI conducts its investigation.
QUESTION: On a different subject.
MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.
QUESTION: Clinton’s emails. Do you guys have an update on the internal review the State Department is conducting into the 22 top secret emails and whether they should have been classified at the time, whether or not they were mishandled?
MS TRUDEAU: I do. It’s a procedural update, but it is an update. As you know, in late January, the State Department announced that we intended to conduct an internal review to examine questions of classification at the time emails from former Secretary Clinton’s collection were sent. In doing so, we contacted the FBI to solicit a judgment from them as to the best path forward. The FBI communicated to us that we should follow our standard practice, which is to put our internal review on hold while there is an ongoing law enforcement investigation underway. Of course, we do not want our internal review to complicate or impede the progress of their ongoing law enforcement investigation. Therefore, the State Department, at this time, is not moving forward with our internal review. The internal review is on hold, pending completion of the FBI’s work. We’ll reassess next steps after the FBI’s work is complete.
QUESTION: Do you expect to help inform the FBI’s investigation in any way in determining if those emails, specifically 22, ought to have been marked classified at the time? Do you expect to inform —
MS TRUDEAU: So we’re coordinating with the FBI on this. I’m not going to share any additional details at this time. This is a law enforcement matter.
QUESTION: Sorry, I’m not sure I understand.
MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.
QUESTION: These two – well, I don’t —
MS TRUDEAU: Review and investigation.
QUESTION: Right. I don’t understand how they contradict each other. Why?
MS TRUDEAU: So it’s basically – it’s – like I said, it’s a procedural matter. So while the ongoing law enforcement investigation is taking place, our internal review is on hold pending the completion of that.
MS TRUDEAU: Because we don’t want to complicate the law enforcement investigation. That takes priority.
QUESTION: Are the same people doing the review as are doing the investigation?
MS TRUDEAU: I understand that it’s our standard procedure. In cases like this, if there’s an ongoing law enforcement investigation we pause. So we communicated with the FBI in this matter.
QUESTION: Well, let’s just take, for example, something else. Like there was an ongoing investigation into what happened in Benghazi, and yet there was also a internal State Department review going on at the same time to see – I didn’t see that – the review wasn’t stopped then.
MS TRUDEAU: I can’t speak to that. I can speak to the decision that was taken here.
QUESTION: Well, you can say what the decision was, but I don’t understand why it is that you would —
MS TRUDEAU: So what —
QUESTION: I don’t understand why it is that you would say that your internal review would somehow complicate an FBI investigation. And I don’t understand why the FBI would say that either. It doesn’t sound right.
MS TRUDEAU: So what we’re saying is that the law enforcement investigation will continue. We don’t want our own internal review to impede or complicate the progress.
QUESTION: Yeah, how —
QUESTION: How exactly —
MS TRUDEAU: I’m not going to speak to that.
QUESTION: How exactly would it or could it impede or complicate —
MS TRUDEAU: I’m not going to speak to the details on that, Matt. I can’t.
QUESTION: Well, if you can’t say how it is, then why should – I mean —
MS TRUDEAU: It’s a procedural matter. This is why – so the law enforcement investigation will continue.
QUESTION: I get it’s a procedural matter, but that doesn’t mean you don’t – it doesn’t have to be explained.
MS TRUDEAU: So my understanding is that the law enforcement investigation, run by the FBI, is continuing. Ours is on pause. It is on hold until that happens.
QUESTION: Yeah, I understand that’s the – yes, that is the fact of what you’ve just said.
MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.
QUESTION: What I’m trying to get at is why it is that – or how it is possible that an internal State Department review of what happened with those 22 emails could possibly complicate or impede a review being done by an entirely different agency at a —
MS TRUDEAU: I think it’s prudence. It is the idea that there is an ongoing law enforcement investigation.
QUESTION: But —
MS TRUDEAU: As we do our internal review, we do not want to get into the complications that a law enforcement investigation, as it continues, the ramifications of that. Ours is —
QUESTION: Well, I don’t understand how an internal State Department review could possibly complicate the – I don’t get it. I don’t. How could an internal State Department review complicate an FBI investigation?
MS TRUDEAU: Well, clearly, we believe that it’s best that it’s on hold.
QUESTION: Yeah, to – you believe that it’s best on hold, yeah. But I don’t – but I —
MS TRUDEAU: We believe – it’s our standard process, is that this is what we do. That while it’s happening – do you have more questions?
QUESTION: Is it (inaudible)?
QUESTION: Well, I just – yeah, I mean, your – the answer is far from satisfactory, I think. Go ahead, Arshad.
QUESTION: Should the fact that you have decided to pause your review so as not to impede the FBI’s investigation be taken as a sign that the Administration thinks that the laws may have been broken here?
MS TRUDEAU: I wouldn’t read anything into it. It’s my understanding – and I know this makes Matt unhappy – that this is a procedural matter.
QUESTION: So the reason I’m asking this is —
MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.
QUESTION: — I mean, I think clearly somebody thinks that there may have been laws broken here, because the FBI’s investigating it. Now, that doesn’t mean that laws were broken; it just means the FBI is trying to figure out if laws have been broken. And therefore, it seems to me to stand to reason that you’re backing off on this to let —
MS TRUDEAU: Pausing.
QUESTION: — the investigation into whether laws were or were not broken proceed. Correct?
MS TRUDEAU: I can speak to process on this one. I can’t speak to the details, what the overlap is. What I can say is that our standard procedure in this case is that law enforcement comes first.
QUESTION: So once the law enforcement investigation is over, your internal review will start again?
MS TRUDEAU: So after the law enforcement investigation ends, we’ll reassess. I’m not going to prejudge any outcomes on that. And the department will take appropriate action to take a look at where we move forward on it.
QUESTION: And so how long have – this review began when, the State Department’s internal review?
MS TRUDEAU: So it’s my – it’s – we reached out to the FBI in February. I think Kirby spoke about this from the podium in January. So the work that had begun was largely administrative, talking about planning.
QUESTION: When did the – and when did the FBI investigation begin?
MS TRUDEAU: You know I can’t speak to that. I’d refer you to the FBI on that.
QUESTION: Was it before January?
MS TRUDEAU: I actually don’t know.
QUESTION: Is there a fear that the findings of the internal review could contradict those of an FBI review —
MS TRUDEAU: I won’t —
QUESTION: — and therefore create a problem?
MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, I’m not going to speak to that. But we are prioritizing the law enforcement investigation.
QUESTION: When did the FBI ask you not to proceed with your review?
MS TRUDEAU: So we reached out to them in late February. They came back to us in March.
QUESTION: When in March?
MS TRUDEAU: I don’t have that specific date.
QUESTION: Was it yesterday, or was it, like —
MS TRUDEAU: I – to be honest, I don’t have that granularity.
QUESTION: Can you ask?
MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, I will.
QUESTION: Can I change topics?
MS TRUDEAU: Of course.
QUESTION: No, no, wait.
MS TRUDEAU: Wait, hold on one second.
QUESTION: It was – who was it again that was doing this internal review?
MS TRUDEAU: It was the bureaus of Diplomatic Security and INR.
QUESTION: Now does this also mean that the – is this the only review? The IG has still got a review going on, and in terms of just broader practices —
MS TRUDEAU: We – the Secretary —
QUESTION: — and the – that has not stopped?
MS TRUDEAU: It’s my understanding that continues at the direction —
QUESTION: Why would that continue if this —
MS TRUDEAU: The IG is an independent organization. Remember they have their own process, their own mandate.
QUESTION: So – okay. But you can say that it hasn’t been affected?
MS TRUDEAU: To my knowledge, as of right now, it continues.