A former State Department staffer who helped set up Hillary Clinton’s private email server formally asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and declined to answer questions in a deposition Wednesday before lawyers with the conservative legal advocacy group Judicial Watch.
Computer specialist Bryan Pagliano invoked his constitutional right more than 130 times according to a transcript of the 100-minute session released by Judicial Watch Thursday.
The group sought to have Pagliano answer questions under oath as part of its civil lawsuit looking into whether Clinton’s exclusive use of a private server when she was secretary of state from 2009 to 2013 thwarted the Freedom of Information Act and the release of public records.
“Was the Clintonemail.com system created for Secretary Clinton to use during her tenure as Secretary of State for government business?” Judicial Watch attorney Ramona Cotca asked in one typical exchange.
“On the advice of counsel, I will decline to answer your question in reliance on my rights under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution,” Pagliano said.
Pagliano’s attorneys also directed him repeatedly to not answer questions that they said went beyond the creation and use of Clinton’s email set-up, into which U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan allowed discovery.
Lead Pagliano attorney Mark J. MacDougall, who led a team of three Akin Gump lawyers attending his deposition, declined to comment.
In a statement, Judicial Watch said Pagliano declined to discuss email-related discussions with Clinton and her top aides; how the system was set up; who was paying for his legal representation, or what discussions he had with Clinton’s lawyers about the email issue.
Pagliano was information technology director for Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign and continued to be paid by the Clintons to maintain the server in their New York home in 2009. Officials have said Pagliano did not report payments after he arrived at the State Department in May 2009.
Pagliano stated his intention to the court earlier this month to appear before Judicial Watch attorneys but to not answer any questions, asserting a “reasonable fear of prosecution.”
Pagliano was the fifth current or former Clinton or State Department aide to be deposed in the Judicial Watch case. Huma C. Abedin, former deputy chief of staff to secretary Clinton and now vice chair of her Democratic presidential campaign, and Undersecretary of State Patrick F. Kennedy are set to appear for questions next week.
Pagliano last year invoked the Fifth Amendment and declined to answer questions by a House committee investigating the Sept. 2012 attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya.
His lawyers said after they approached the Justice Department in December, he was granted limited immunity in agreements reached in a criminal investigation into whether Clinton’s email setup mishandling classified information or violated other laws. Sullivan asked to examine the agreements, which Pagliano’s attorneys filed under seal,