A Republican-led House panel voted Thursday to hold a former State Department IT technician in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify about the private email server he set up for then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Byran Pagliano previously ignored two subpoenas demanding he appear at a House Oversight Committee hearing last week regarding Clinton’s private server. The panel voted 19-15 along party lines to send the contempt resolution to the full House, Fox News reported.
"Subpoenas are not optional," committee chair Jason Chaffetz (R., Utah) said. "This committee cannot operate–it cannot perform its duty … if subpoenas are ignored."
Chaffetz said the committee was "left with no choice" when Pagliano ignored his second subpoena last week.
Pagliano’s attorney previously warned the committee that a subpoena would be futile given that the former tech aide would assert his Fifth Amendment rights when asked any questions.
"Mr. Pagliano is defending a critical principal [sic] of individual liberty and the constitutional right of a private citizen to resist partisan political forces masquerading as proper government functions," Mark MacDougall wrote to Chaffetz on Wednesday.
Democrats called the contempt citation a political ploy intended to embarrass Clinton with the presidential election less than two months away.
"Republicans want a photo op. They want a ready-made campaign commercial. No matter what anyone says, that is not a legitimate legislative purpose," said Elijah Cummings (Md.), the committee’s ranking Democrat.
Chaffetz said the immunity agreement struck between Pagliano and the Justice Department during the FBI’s probe into Clinton’s server exempts the IT aide from fears of criminal liability that may prevent him from testifying.
The full House must approve the contempt resolution.