Clinton campaign accuses Obama appointee of trying to smear Clinton

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a town hall at the Toledo Civic Center in Toledo, Iowa, on Monday, Jan. 18, 2016.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a town hall at the Toledo Civic Center in Toledo, Iowa, on Monday, Jan. 18, 2016. AP

Hillary Clinton’s spokesman accused the Intelligence Community Inspector General Wednesday of working with Republicans to attack the Democratic presidential front-runner.

“I think this was a very coordinated leak,” Brian Fallon said on CNN. “Two months ago there was that directly challenged the finding of this inspector general, and I don’t think he liked that very much. So I think that he put two Republican senators up to sending him a letter so that he would have an excuse to resurface the same allegations he made back in the summer that have been discredited.”

The comments came after Inspector General Charles McCullough III told senators that he believes at least several dozen of emails Clinton sent and received while she was secretary of state contained classified material at the highest levels, according to a letter obtained by McClatchy.

McCullough was nominated by President President Barack Obama in August 2011 to be the first inspector general for the 16 intelligence agencies and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. He was unanimously confirmed by the Senate Intelligence Committee that October. The full Senate agreed by unanimous consent in November.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who used to head the intelligence committee, described McCullough as “well-qualified.”

“He has long experience conducting investigations both as an inspector general and a FBI agent,” Feinstein said in a floor speech in November 2011. “He is an attorney and is well-familiar with the intelligence community.”

Other Democrats agreed.

“We've heard good things about you and I'm looking forward to supporting you when Chair Feinstein moves ahead with the vote,” Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon said in September 2011.

“You clearly have been able to operate in both the civilian and the military sectors which will, I think, prove to be a very valuable set of experiences, if you're confirmed,” Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colorado. said in September 2011.

Clinton has been under fire for months for exclusively using personal email routed through a private server while serving as the nation’s top diplomat. The FBI launched an inquiry into the handling of sensitive information after classified information was found in some.

At least 1,340 emails that Hillary Clinton sent or received contained classified material, according to the State Department’s latest update from its ongoing review of more than 30,000 emails.

In response to a public records lawsuit, the State Department is releasing Clinton’s emails at the end of each month after partially or entirely redacting any containing sensitive U.S. or foreign government information. The last batch is due this month.

None of Clinton’s emails was marked as classified during her tenure, State Department officials say, but intelligence officials say some material was clearly classified at the time. Her aides also sent and received classified information.

In a Jan. 14 letter sent to the chairman of the Senate Intelligence and Foreign Relations committees, McCullough said some of the information in Clinton’s emails was classified as "top secret/SAP" or "special access program." That is a more restricted category than previously thought. The letter was first reported by FOX News.

Fallon said on CNN that he believes the issue refers to the forwarding of a New York Times story about drones.

“Their chief defense against accusations that Clinton improperly sent and received classified information on an unsecure device is that the independent intelligence community Inspector General teamed up with Republicans to take Clinton down,” said Jeff Bechdel, a spokesman for America Rising PAC, which is collecting opposition research on Clinton. “This level of paranoia is not just indicative of a desperate campaign, but of a deep mistrust in the federal government and the ability of public officials to be impartial.”

Greg Gordon contributed to this report.