A former Hillary Clinton staffer who helped set up the former secretary of state's private email server has vowed to plead the Fifth and refuse to answer questions after a congressional committee subpoenaed him, msnbc confirmed late Wednesday.
Bryan Pagliano, who worked for Clinton during her 2008 presidential campaign and at the State Department, has been identified in digital records as the person who set up her email server in 2009.
The House Select Committee on Benghazi, which is investigating Clinton’s emails, subpoenaed Pagliano last month to testify. But his lawyer said Monday that the IT specialist would refuse to answer questions, asserting his constitutional right against self-incrimination, The Washington Post first reported Wednesday.
“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,” attorney Mark MacDougall wrote in a letter obtained by msnbc to Benghazi Committee Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy.
The letter cites the fact the FBI is already investigating the security of Clinton’s email server, and notes that Pagliano had been contacted in the past week by two separate Senate committees also looking into the matter.
Pagliano was IT director for Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign before serving as special advisor to the Department of State under Clinton from May 2009 through February 2013, according to his LinkedIn page.
Pagliano’s move will likely pour fuel on partisan fire over Clinton’s email server, with opponents sure to cite it as evidence that Clinton and her team are stonewalling investigators.
It’s unclear what, if anything, Pagliano could be held accountable for. Refusing to testify could be an attempt to avoid accidentally perjuring himself under oath.
Clinton's campaign said late Wednesday that they had hoped Pagliano would answer the committee's questions and encouraged him to do so. "His decision is both understandable and yet also disappointing to us," a campaign aide said in a statement.
"We have been confident from the beginning that Hillary Clinton's use of a personal email was allowed and that she did not send or receive anything marked classified, facts confirmed by the State Department and the Inspector General. She has made every effort to answer questions and be as helpful as possible, and has encouraged her aides, current and former, to do the same, including Bryan Pagliano. In fact, two of those aides are due to testify this week, and she is eager to testify in a public hearing in October," the aide added.
“Although multiple legal experts agree there is no evidence of criminal activity, it is certainly understandable that this witness’ attorneys advised him to assert his Fifth Amendment rights,” said the Benghazi Committee's top Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings.
Cummings went on to suggest that Republicans’ asserts that Clinton had committed a crime could have lead Pagliano’s attorney to advise against testimony. “Their insatiable desire to derail Secretary Clinton’s presidential campaign at all costs has real consequences for any serious congressional effort,” Cummings said.
In a memo shared with Democratic members of the committee, the committee staff point to numerous examples of Republican presidential candidates claiming Clinton had committed a crime. They also note that one can plead the Fifth even if there is no criminal investigation.