A federal judge Friday postponed a deposition of a former State Department staffer who helped set up Hillary Clinton’s private email server, seeking more information about the aide’s immunity agreement with federal prosecutors and his claim to a Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in a civil lawsuit.
Attorneys for technology specialist Bryan Pagliano had also asked U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of the District to bar audio or video recording of the deposition, originally planned for Monday before lawyers with the conservative legal advocacy group Judicial Watch. The group is seeking to have Pagliano answer questions under oath as part of its lawsuit probing whether Clinton’s email arrangement when she was secretary of state thwarted the Freedom of Information Act and the release of public records.
Sullivan did not rule on that request to bar recording Pagliano’s deposition session. Instead, Sullivan directed both sides to address by June 13 the legal authority for Pagliano’s constitutional claim against self-incrimination.
“Counsel for Mr. Pagliano shall file a Memorandum of Law addressing the legal authority upon which Mr. Pagliano relies to assert his Fifth Amendment rights in this civil proceeding,” Sullivan ordered in a brief note in the court docket Friday afternoon.
Sullivan also told Pagliano’s lawyers to include “requisite details pertaining to the scope” of an immunity agreement reported by The Washington Post in March, reached between him and the Justice Department in an FBI criminal investigation of the handling of classified information in Clinton’s email setup.
In a statement Friday, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said, “The court’s order is an important step to getting more answers from Mr. Pagliano about Hillary Clinton’s email system.”
Pagliano’s attorneys, Mark Joseph MacDougall and Connor Mullin did not immediately respond to emailed requests for comment.
Pagliano last summer declined to appear before a House panel investigating the 2012 attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, citing the FBI investigation and quoting a Supreme Court ruling that described the Fifth Amendment as protecting “innocent men . . . ‘who otherwise might be ensnared by ambiguous circumstances.’ ”
Earlier this week, Pagliano’s lawyers disclosed his intent to make a similar claim in asking Sullivan to bar video recording of the deposition, citing the “absence of any proper purpose for [it], and the considerable risk of abuse” in a lawsuit with “an undisputed political agenda.” A recording could be leaked, they said, quoting past court rulings stating that individuals asserting their rights should not be made the subject of misleading “sound bites.”
Judicial Watch opposed the request, saying an existing court order seals video records and that recording the deposition would help Sullivan assess Pagliano’s demeanor and credibility.
“These attempts to impugn [Judicial Watch’s] integrity are unwarranted and inappropriate,” the group said in a court filing. “As the Court has stated, this case is about the public’s ‘right to know details related to the creation, purpose and use of the clintonemail.com system.’ ”
Pagliano is one of half a dozen former State Department and Clinton aides ordered by Sullivan to give sworn testimony in a lawsuit concerning Judicial Watch’s 2013 public-records request for information concerning Clinton aide Huma C. Abedin’s employment arrangement.