Facing a congressional subpoena, a former State Department staffer connected to Hillary Clinton's private email server has decided to invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to answer questions from several congressional committees.
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Attorneys for Bryan Pagliano, a former State Department staffer who received a subpoena to testify and provide documents to the House Select Committee, wrote the committee a letter Sunday notifying the Benghazi Committee chairman, Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., that Pagliano would plead the fifth in light of the FBI investigation into the security of Clinton's email server.
Gowdy wants Pagliano to appear before the Benghazi Committee for a closed interview next Thursday, and to provide documents “related to the servers or systems” operated and owned by Clinton, according to the letter from Pagliano’s attorneys to Gowdy.
“While we understand that Mr. Pagliano’s response to this subpoena may be controversial in the current political environment, we hope that members of the Select Committee will respect our client’s right to invoke the protections of the Constitution,” Pagliano’s attorneys wrote. “For these reasons, we respectfully request that the Select Committee excuse Mr. Pagliano from personally appearing on Sept. 10, 2015.”
According to the letter, Pagliano has also received interview requests from the Senate Judiciary and Homeland Security Committees, which have begun their own spin-off investigations into Clinton’s use of private email.
“Mr. Pagliano’s legal counsel told the committee on Tuesday that he would plead the 5th to any and all questions if he were compelled to testify,” a Senate Judiciary Committee spokesperson wrote in a statement.
The news of the subpoena and Pagliano's response, first reported by the Washington Post, came before the Benghazi Committee's closed-door interview of Cheryl Mills, a Clinton adviser who served as her chief-of-staff at the State Department.
Heading into the closed hearing this morning, Gowdy said he had no response to the letter, and did not say whether he would excuse Pagliano from testifying.
“I don't [have any reaction]. You'll have to ask his attorney that question,” he said. “I know that in the past why people have invoked their Fifth Amendment privilege, but you'll have to ask him what he did.”
Pagliano's decision was disappointing to the Clinton campaign, which had hoped he would testify about his IT work for the former secretary of state.
Clinton "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," a campaign aide wrote in an email.
But Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the ranking Democrat on the committee, defended Pagliano's legal decision in a statement Wednesday night.
"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, 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," he said.
"Their insatiable desire to derail Secretary Clinton's presidential campaign at all costs has real consequences for any serious congressional effort." Pagliano worked as an IT director for Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign, and served as a special advisor to the State Department's chief technology officer between 2009 and 2013, according to a LinkedIn profile. He now works for Gartner, an IT consulting firm.
His attorney, Mark MacDougall, did not return a request for comment.
Clinton will testify publicly before the Benghazi Committee Oct. 22.