Hillary Clinton Aide Bryan Pagliano Invokes Fifth Amendment in Email Probe
WASHINGTON—An aide to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton invoked his constitutional protection against self-incrimination in front of a congressional panel on Thursday, a move that could prompt investigators to grant him immunity in exchange for his testimony about the Democratic presidential candidate’s personal email server.
Bryan Pagliano, an IT staffer who worked for the State Department and was paid by Mrs. Clinton to help maintain her personal email server, invoked his Fifth Amendment right to refuse to answer questions that could incriminate him, in front of the House Select Committee on Benghazi.
The Benghazi committee—formed last year to investigate the 2012 terrorist attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Libya—has also been probing Mrs. Clinton’s decision to use a personal email server for government business while she was secretary of state, an issue that has roiled Mrs. Clinton’s campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Mrs. Clinton apologized in an interview with ABC News this week, describing her use of a personal email server as a “mistake.” But she also said that what she did was permitted under State Department rules.
The Republican-led committee subpoenaed Mr. Pagliano, compelling him to appear on Thursday. The committee had prepared 19 pages of questions. The congressional committees investigating Mrs. Clinton’s email arrangement must now decide whether to offer Mr. Pagliano immunity to compel his testimony.
Mr. Pagliano declined to speak to reporters on Capitol Hill and an attorney representing him didn’t respond to a request for comment. In a letter to the committee this week, Mr. Pagliano’s attorney asked that he be excused from testifying given his stated intention to invoke his right against self-incrimination. A spokesman for Mrs. Clinton didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
“There is no substantial or proper purpose in requiring Mr. Pagliano to appear and assert his Fifth Amendment right—other than embarrassment, imposition or the pursuit of purely political objectives,” attorney Mark MacDougall wrote to the panel.
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R., S.C.), the committee’s Republican chairman, acknowledged Mr. Pagliano had the right to invoke the Fifth Amendment, but hinted that the committee might call him again.
“The House has remedies it could pursue,” Mr. Gowdy said.
Sens. Ron Johnson and Chuck Grassley, Republican chairmen of the Senate Homeland Security and Judiciary Committees, suggested in a letter last week the House could grant Mr. Pagliano immunity in exchange for his testimony on the matter. Mr. Pagliano’s attorney said that he would cooperate with a committee investigation if an immunity order was granted.
Democrats have portrayed the committee’s investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s emails as a partisan exercise.
“I don’t think he has any information about Benghazi,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat on the committee. “He was dragged in here today, the reason being politics.…This is not supposed to be an investigation about emails. It’s supposed to be an investigation about Benghazi.”
Cheryl Mills and Jake Sullivan, two other top aides to Mrs. Clinton, testified on Capitol Hill last week. Committee Republicans described both as cooperative after their daylong, closed door sessions.
Of the 45 people the committee has questioned so far, Mr. Pagliano was the only person to invoke the fifth amendment, Mr. Gowdy said.