Lawyers for a former State Department staffer who worked on Hillary Clinton’s private email system have notified a House committee that their client will not testify Tuesday morning, saying that he previously invoked his constitutional right against self-incrimination before another Republican-led panel of Congress.
Bryan Pagliano, who worked on Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign before setting up a server for Clinton in her New York home in 2009 during her tenure as secretary of state, last year invoked the Fifth Amendment and declined to answer questions by a House committee investigating the 2012 attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya.
On Monday, Pagliano’s attorneys sharply criticized a new subpoena issued Thursday evening by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, for Pagliano to appear on two business days’ notice with two information technology workers to answer questions about why a Clinton email archive was deleted, according to a letter obtained by The Washington Post.
“Any effort to require Mr. Pagliano to publicly appear this week and again assert his Fifth Amendment rights before a committee of the same Congress, inquiring about the same matter as the Benghazi Committee, furthers no legislative purpose and is a transparent effort to publicly harass and humiliate our client for unvarnished political purposes,” wrote Pagliano’s attorneys with Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld.
“The unreasonableness of the time constraint in the subpoena underscores the purely political motivations of this Committee,” said Pagliano’s five-member defense team, led by Mark J. MacDougall. Any legal effort by the committee to force Pagliano’s appearance knowing that he will provide no new information could violate a D.C. bar ethics ruling against subjecting witnesses to public ridicule, they added.
Besides Pagliano, the House committee issued subpoenas to Paul Combetta and Bill Thornton of Platte River Networks, an information technology firm contracted by Clinton to help manage her server, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
The FBI said this month that a Platte River staffer deleted an archive of Hillary Clinton’s email after it had been requested by Congress.
The New York Times reported last week that the staffer was Combetta, and that he had been granted immunity by the Justice Department in its year-long investigation into the handling of classified information, which was closed without charges at the FBI’s recommendation.
A Chaffetz committee aide said late Monday that Justin Cooper, a Bill Clinton aide who set up the original private server in 2009, has agreed to testify.
Asked if Combetta and Thornton would invoke their constitutional rights against self-incrimination, the committee aide said: “You never can know for sure. We’re hopeful they will testify, we just have to wait and see.”
Cooper attorney Howard Shapiro did not immediately respond to a request for comment. MacDougall declined to comment.
In a letter to MacDougall released by the committee, Chaffetz wrote that subpoenas for Pagliano’s testimony and relevant documents remain in effect, citing among other reasons the possibility that Pagliano could agree to answer some or all questions, or the panel could agree to hear his testimony in a closed-door session — or grant him immunity.
Pagliano’s lawyers have said that he fully cooperated with the Justice Department investigation under a grant of limited immunity. Pagliano invoked his Fifth Amendment right more than 125 times in a June 6 deposition before lawyers with the conservative group Judicial Watch in a civil public records lawsuit seeking Clinton’s emails.