A former State Department staffer who worked on Hillary Rodham Clinton’s private email server this week tried to fend off a subpoena to testify before Congress, saying he would assert his constitutional right not to respond questions to avoid self-incrimination.
The move by Bryan Pagliano, who worked on Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign before setting up the server in his New York home in 2009, came in a Monday letter from his attorney to the House panel investigating the 2012 attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
The letter cited the FBI’s ongoing investigation into the security of Clinton’s email system and cited a Supreme Court ruling in which the justices described the Fifth Amendment as protecting “innocent men.” . . . “who otherwise might be ensnared by ambiguous circumstances.” ”
The FBI is investigating whether Clinton’s system — in which she exclusively used private email for her job as secretary of state — could have compromised sensitive national security information.
Thousands of emails that have been released by the State Department as part of a lawsuit for public records show Clinton herself writing at least six emails containing information that has since been considered classified. Large parts of these emails were redacted before publication, on the grounds that their publication could harm national security.
“While we understand that Mr. Pagliano’s response to this subpoena may be controversial in the current political environment, we hope that the members of the select committee will respect our client’s right to invoke the protections of the Constitution,” his lawyer, Mark MacDougall, wrote.
Two other Senate committees contacted Pagliano last week, according to a copy of the letter, which was obtained by The Washington Post. The requests came from the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Homeland Security Committee, according to people familiar with the requests.
The Senate Judiciary Committee confirmed Wednesday that it was seeking to question Pagliano about his work for Clinton.
“In response to questions . . . Legal counsel for Mr. Pagliano told the committee yesterday that he would plead the Fifth on all issues if compelled to testify,” said a spokesman for committee chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa ), in a press release.
Representative Trey Gowdy (RS.C.), chairman of the House committee in Benghazi, had subpoenaed the IT staffer on August 11 and ordered that he appear for questioning before the committee on September 10. Gowdy also demanded that Pagliano provide documents related to servers or systems controlled or owned by Clinton from 2009 to 2013.
Pagliano, who worked in the State Department’s information technology department from May 2009 to February 2013, left the agency when Clinton stepped down as secretary. He now works for a technology contractor that provides certain services to the State Department.
The committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), complained yesterday that Gowdy unilaterally issued the subpoena. He said the subpoena of a low-level aide is one of many signs that Gowdy is using the committee for the political purpose of trying to smear a Democratic presidential candidate.
“Although several legal experts agree that there is no evidence of criminal activity, it is certainly understandable that this witness’ attorneys advised him to assert his Fifth Amendment rights, especially given the onslaught of wild and unsubstantiated accusations by Republican presidential candidates, members of Congress and others. based on false leaks about the investigation,” Cummings said. “Their insatiable desire to derail Secretary Clinton’s presidential campaign at any cost has real consequences for any serious congressional effort.”
MacDougall declined to comment late Wednesday night.