The Republican National Committee is accusing the State Department of "stonewalling" a months-old request to obtain missing emails belonging to information technology staffer Bryan Pagliano, who helped maintain Hillary Clinton's private email server when she was secretary of state.
According to documents first seen by ABC News, the National Archives and Records Administration, or NARA, requested an explanation as to why there are so few email records belonging to Pagliano, a political appointee to the State Department who worked there from May 2009 to February 2013. During his tenure at the department, Pagliano became a valuable member of Clinton's team, developing a reputation as a quiet insider with vast knowledge of her email server. Federal investigators had sought his assistance during the probe into Clinton's email practices, according to ABC News.
He signed an immunity agreement with the Justice Department in exchange for cooperating with FBI investigators examining Clinton's use of that private email server and has invoked his Fifth Amendment rights hundreds of times in response to congressional and legal inquiries. In May, the State Department announced it couldn’t find any evidence that Pagliano had turned over his emails prior to leaving the department, which he would have been required by law to do.
Documents show that NARA asked the department on July 18 to provide an explanation within 30 days as to why Pagliano's emails could not be produced. In addition to that request, NARA's letter asked for a description of measures that would be taken to retrieve the emails, ABC reported.
"If it’s determined Federal records have been alienated or destroyed, please describe all measures your agency has taken, or expects to take, to retrieve the alienated records or retrieve them, to the extent necessary and appropriate," NARA wrote.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus blamed the delay on the State Department trying to protect Clinton.
"The State Department is clearly stonewalling another federal agency's efforts to recover the emails of the IT staffer who set up Clinton's illegal server and was granted immunity by the FBI," Priebus told ABC News. "If this isn’t an Obama Administration cover-up to protect Hillary Clinton, I don’t know what is."
State Department spokesperson John Kirby disagreed with Priebus and denied the RNC's accusations that the department was "stonewalling" NARA's request on Pagliano.
"There is no stonewalling and there is no cover-up," Kirby said in a statement to ABC News, noting that the department will respond to NARA's letter.
"As we have publicly explained months ago, the Department has searched for Mr. Pagliano's email pst file and has not located one that covers the time period of Secretary Clinton's tenure," Kirby said, referencing a file type that would have contained Pagliano's emails. "As we have also previously explained, employees' emails have not always been automatically retained, so the absence of this email file does not necessarily indicate that Mr. Pagliano intentionally deleted his emails."
Kirby defended the State Department's efforts, saying that although Pagliano did not turn any emails over before leaving, some of them were captured and retrieved via separate government accounts. State Department officials added that "hundreds of pages" of those recovered emails have been shared with Congress and the RNC, which acquired them through a freedom of information lawsuit.
Kirby indicated that the department still plans to respond to NARA's letter, but he never offered an explanation as to why it missed NARA's deadline or the intended method to retrieve the emails.
The RNC said that NARA could still recover Pagliano's emails if the agency involved U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, adding that it could be problematic for Pagliano if he destroyed records. According to ABC, Pagliano could potentially be required to pay a fine, go to prison, or both. While Pagliano has an immunity agreement with the Justice Department, the RNC does not think the agreement shields him from alleged destruction of federal records.