Ex-Clinton Staffer to Plead the Fifth to Avoid Testifying on Private Server

Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton / AP
September 3, 2015

A computer staffer who set up Hillary Clinton’s private server in 2009 plans to avoid testifying before Congress by asserting his Fifth Amendment right, according to a letter from his attorney.

The Washington Post reported that Bryan Pagliano, a former computer staffer at the State Department who also worked on Clinton’s failed 2008 presidential campaign, will refuse to testify before the Republican-led House Select Committee on Benghazi as requested in a subpoena.

In a Monday letter to the committee, attorney Mark MacDougall referred to the FBI investigation into the security of Clinton’s private server and quoted from a Supreme Court ruling describing the Fifth Amendment as protecting "innocent men ... ‘who otherwise might be ensnared by ambiguous circumstances.’"

The lawyer also acknowledged that Pagliano’s decision may be viewed as "controversial in the current political environment."

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R., S.C.), who chairs the committee investigating the 2012 Benghazi terror attack, sent the subpoena to Pagliano on Aug. 11 requesting he appear before the committee on Sept. 10. Gowdy also demanded the former State Department employee hand over documents having to do with Clinton’s private servers and systems between 2009 and 2013.

MacDougall’s letter also noted that the former Clinton aide has been contacted by two separate Senate committees, reportedly the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Homeland Security Committee.

A spokesman for Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) confirmed that the committee had reached out to Pagliano, noting that his lawyer alleged that he "would plead the Fifth to any and all questions if he were compelled to testify."

The Benghazi committee’s ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D., Md.) shrugged off Pagliano’s decision.

"Although multiple legal experts agree there is no evidence of criminal activity, it is certainly understandable that this witness’s attorneys advised him to assert his Fifth Amendment rights, especially given the onslaught of wild and unsubstantiated accusations by Republican presidential candidates, members of Congress and others based on false leaks about the investigation," Cummings alleged. "Their insatiable desire to derail Secretary Clinton’s presidential campaign at all costs has real consequences for any serious congressional effort."

Pagliano worked in State’s information technology department between May 2009 and February 2013 and left when the former secretary of state retired from her post. He still provides some contract work to the government agency.

Clinton was forced to hand over her private server last month to the Justice Department amid the FBI investigation into her system. Despite her insistence that she never knowingly sent or received classified information on her personal email, the inspector general of the intelligence community determined that several of Clinton’s emails contain classified information.