The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted 19-15 today to hold Hillary Clinton's former IT staffer in contempt of Congress.
For the second time in two weeks, Bryan Pagliano, former senior adviser for information resource management at the State Department, failed to show up to a hearing to testify on the preservation of State Department records.
Pagliano was the IT staffer who set up Clinton's private email server during her time as secretary of state.
On Sept. 13, Pagliano did not show up to testify before the committee despite being subpoenaed. After his chair was vacant again at today's hearing, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah and chairman of the committee, held a vote to hold Pagliano in contempt of Congress for his refusal to comply with a subpoena issued by the committee.
The vote passed 19 to 15, split along party lines. The resolution will now travel to the House floor.
Chaffetz argued that Pagliano is a key witness in the investigation into Clinton's use of a private email server to conduct government business. The chairman asserted that Pagliano had no reason not to appear before the committee because he would not be subject to criminal liability due to immunity granted by the Department of Justice.
But Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, vigorously defended Pagliano’s decision not to show up, saying that the committee had harassed him by sending U.S. marshals to his workplace with the subpoena.
“I simply cannot vote for a resolution that is potentially so unethical,” Cummings said.
Cummings has continuously charged that the hearings related to Clinton's email server are political in nature.
Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Massachusetts, feared that the committee was trying to embarrass Pagliano.
"The chairman is saying that his rule is that the witness has to come before the Committee and be subjected to what the witnesses were subjected to last week," Lynch said, later adding, "We’re continuing to try to embarrass this particular witness.”
Pagliano’s lawyer, Mark MacDougall, has said that if his client were brought before the committee, he would plead the Fifth Amendment.
Pagliano previously pleaded the Fifth Amendment in September 2015 when he was called before the congressional committee investigating the attack in Benghazi, Libya, that resulted in the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
Contempt of Congress is defined in statute 2 U.S.C.A. § 192 and is punishable by a maximum $1,000 fine and up to 12 months of imprisonment.
In 2014, the House voted to find former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress and adopted a resolution calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special counsel to investigate the IRS targeting scandal. But federal prosecutors never prosecuted Lerner, instead determining she did nothing wrong by refusing to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.