A former State Department employee who worked on Hillary Clinton’s private email server has informed Congress that he will invoke the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying before the House Select Committee on Benghazi and in response to other Congressional inquiries related to the server.
On Monday, Mark MacDougall, the attorney for former State Department employee Bryan Pagliano, sent a letter to House Select Committee on Benghazi Chairman Trey Gowdy indicating that Pagliano would assert his Fifth Amendment right not to appear before the Select Committee for a deposition on September 10, 2015. A copy of the letter was obtained by CNN.
MacDougall also says that Pagliano would likewise “decline to produce documents that may be responsive to the subpoena.” In the letter, MacDougall defends the decision to invoke the Fifth Amendment by expressing concern about “the current political environment” surrounding Clinton’s email use.
Pagliano is a former IT staffer who worked for Clinton and assisted with her email and server. On August 11, Gowdy issued a subpoena for his deposition. A Democratic committee source says there was “no debate or vote by the select committee” about the decision to issue Pagliano subpoena.
Responding to additional requests regarding Clinton’s private server from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley’s staff, Pagliano’s legal counsel also said yesterday that “he would plead the 5th to any and all questions if he were compelled to testify” before the Judiciary Committee, according to a spokesman for the senator.
In a letter to Democratic members of the Select Committee on Benghazi defending Pagliano’s decision, Democratic committee staff wrote “Despite the lack of any evidence of criminal activity, it is understandable that attorneys for Mr. Pagliano have advised him to assert his Congressional right not to testify given the onslaught of reckless accusations of criminal conduct the continue to be made by many Republicans.”
The staff noted that “Although some commentators may use the invocation of the Fifth Amendment privilege to assert that a criminal investigation may now be underway, the assertion of the Fifth Amendment privilege does not imply the existence of a criminal investigation.”
Additionally, the Democratic committee staff cited multiple statements from Republican presidential candidates and members of Congress implying the existence of criminal activity or a criminal investigation as proof of the “current political environment” referenced in Pagliano’s letter. Thus far, no criminal investigations or criminal charges have been brought against Clinton over the private server.
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Democratic ranking member on the Select Committee, also issued a statement defending of Pagliano’s invocation of the Fifth Amendment, saying, “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.”
Cummings added, “Their insatiable desire to derail Secretary Clinton’s presidential campaign at all costs has real consequences for any serious Congressional effort.”
The Select Committee is also set to interrogate two of Clinton’s top aides from her time as Secretary of State this week: former chief-of-staff Cheryl Mills on Thursday, and former top aide Jake Sullivan on Friday. Questions are expected about the server and internal communications between Clinton’s staff.