Yesterday, Fox News reported that State Department Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy had resigned. But it turns out there was more to the story. Today, Josh Rogin at the Washington Post reports Kennedy was angling to keep his job and then, suddenly, he and the entire senior management at the State Department resigned:
Tillerson was actually inside the State Department’s headquarters in Foggy Bottom on Wednesday, taking meetings and getting the lay of the land. I reported Wednesday morning that the Trump team was narrowing its search for his No. 2 and three officials, and that it was looking to replace the State Department’s long-serving undersecretary for management, Patrick Kennedy. Kennedy, who has been in that job for nine years, was actively involved in the transition and was angling to keep that job under Tillerson, three State Department officials told me.
Then suddenly on Wednesday afternoon, Kennedy and three of his top officials resigned unexpectedly, four State Department officials confirmed. Assistant Secretary of State for Administration Joyce Anne Barr, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Michele Bond and Ambassador Gentry O. Smith, director of the Office of Foreign Missions, followed him out the door.
So did Kennedy jump or was he pushed. Rogin doesn’t give a definitive answer, but a short while ago CNN reported the departures were part of an effort by the Trump administration to clean house:
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) January 26, 2017
Patrick Kennedy was the person working behind the scenes to downgrade classified emails found on Hillary Clinton’s private server. When the first SECRET email turned up on Clinton’s server, Kennedy intervened three different times to ask the FBI to change its mind about the classification. From Politico:
Deputy Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy intervened with the FBI to dispute the classification at least three times: in a May 14, 2015, call to International Operations Division chief Brian McCauley, at an in-person meeting at the State Department five days later and in a phone conversation with the head of FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, Michael Steinbach.
The unnamed FBI author of the message to Jupina said Kennedy summoned various officials to State to discuss the review of 55,000 of Clinton emails requested under FOIA. At that meeting, Kennedy asked the FBI representative and a Justice Department FOIA official to “stay behind to discuss the FBI determination” on classification in the first batch of Clinton emails, the FBI email says.
An email from Steinbach said he turned down Kennedy’s request that the information be withheld solely under a FOIA provision for protection of law enforcement sources, rather than by classifying it.
As it turned out, Kennedy’s attempt to fix the problem for Hillary didn’t matter. There were 110 email chains on her server that were classified (at the time they were sent not upgraded as the State Department repeatedly claimed) so reclassifying one email would not have helped much.
In addition to his role as fixer for Clinton at the State Department, Kennedy was ultimately responsible for decisions regarding security at the Benghazi consulate. The review board did not find Kennedy responsible for the decision to cut security, but chargé d’affaires Gregory Hicks testified he believed Kennedy should have been held at least partly responsible.