WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A former U.S. State Department information technology staffer who worked for Hillary Clinton is refusing to testify before U.S. lawmakers probing the former top diplomat and the 2012 attacks on U.S. installations in Benghazi, Libya, according to a letter sent by his lawyer to Congressional investigators.
Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, was secretary of state at the time of the attacks, in which four Americans were killed. A Republican-led House of Representatives Select Committee is investigating the incident as well as Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure.
Mark MacDougall, a lawyer for former Clinton aide Bryan Pagliano, said in a letter sent on Monday to committee chairman Trey Gowdy that the committee had asked his client to testify and to produce documents related to “servers or systems owned personally and/or controlled by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from 2009 through 2013.”
MacDougall said Pagliano would invoke his constitutional right against self-incrimination and decline to produce documents and to appear before Gowdy’s committee to testify on Sept. 10.
MacDougall said that both the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation were conducting “investigative activity” related to the issues that interested the committee. He said he had also been contacted by two Senate committees seeking to interview Pagliano.
In a memo released on Thursday, the ranking Democrat on the Select Committee on Benghazi, Representative Elijah Cummings, said that numerous legal experts had advised that “there is little, if any, criminal liability” relating to Clinton’s use of a private email server.
Also on Thursday, Cummings said in a statement that he found Pagliano’s reluctance to testify “understandable...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.
“Their insatiable desire to derail Secretary Clinton’s presidential campaign at all costs has real consequences for any serious congressional effort,” Cummings said.
Gowdy offered a different view on Pagliano’s refusal to testify.
“I know in the past why people have invoked their Fifth Amendment privilege, but you’ll have to ask him why he did it. And you’re free to glean whatever inference you want from the fact that he did it,” Gowdy told reporters.
Clinton’s campaign said in a statement that she had encouraged current and former aides to answer questions and “be as helpful as possible,” according to The Washington Post.
Her use of a private email server based at her house in the suburbs of New York while secretary of state has become a controversial issue as she seeks the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination for the November 2016 election.
MSNBC reported that Pagliano set up the email server in 2009.
According to Pagliano’s LinkedIn page, he was the IT director for Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign from 2006-2009, and then went to work for the State Department from May 2009-Feburary 2013.
Yahoo News reported that in addition to his refusal to testify before the House Benghazi, Pagliano had declined to talk to the FBI and the State Department Inspector General’s office.
Neither a spokesman for Gowdy nor Pagliano’s lawyer could immediately be reached for comment.
Clinton is scheduled to appear before the committee on Sept. 22. Two other former aides to Clinton at the State Department are testifying this week. One of those former aides, Jake Sullivan, now works for Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Reporting by Mark Hosenball and Susan Heavey; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Leslie Adler