Hit with a Congressional subpoena? No worries for Clinton IT guy
The FBI release of a 58-page report of the 4th of July weekend interview of Hillary Clinton left unresolved questions regarding the Democratic Presidential nominee and former Secretary of State’s timing of the destruction of her emails. Those glaring questions led the House Oversight committee to subpoena four individuals involved in setting up and then destroying the emails and hardware in an effort to piece together the chronology.
Brian Pagliano, the former Department of State IT guy who set up Clinton’s private email server decided to skip the mandatory appearance. His lawyer advised the committee Chair that Pagliano would be invoking his 5th Amendment rights, despite an immunity deal with the FBI, but only if the hearing was held in a closed session.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), an outspoken critic on the House Oversight Committee asserted, “No regular American can get away with the kind of behavior Secretary Clinton gets away with.”
And Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) vociferously said Pagliano would face serious penalties for “thumbing his nose at Congress.”
Pete Nunez, who served as the U.S. attorney for San Diego from 1982 to 1988, said there could be consequences. “He could be held in contempt for failing to appear, an arrest warrant could be issued; (or) on the other hand, he could argue that he wasn’t served properly, or that he got sick or otherwise had an excuse for not appearing.”
This isn’t the first time Pagliano exercised his Fifth Amendment right not to testify against himself; he invoked the Constitutional right during a hearing on Benghazi in 2015. Following that hearing, he was given an immunity deal by the FBI as part of the investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s private email server. “It’s a serious matter. Mr. Pagliano has chosen to evade a subpoena duly issued by the committee. I will consult with counsel and my colleagues to consider a full range of options available to address Mr. Pagliano’s failure to appear,” Chairman Chaffetz said. “He should be here. When you are served a subpoena by the United States Congress, that is not optional.”
Nunez concurs, “He (Pagliano) doesn’t get to decide – the committee sets the rules.”
However, the Democrats had a different view of the third emergency committee hearing. “I believe this Committee is abusing taxpayer dollars and the authority of Congress in an astonishing onslaught of political attacks to damage Secretary Clinton’s campaign for president,” Elijah Cummings (D-MD) said. “This entire hearing is a contrived campaign photo op.”
Democrats argued that the GOP-led committee is unfairly targeting Pagliano for possible criminal liability because there is an outstanding criminal referral from Chairman Chaffetz that asks the US Attorney’s office to investigate email deletions from Clinton’s private server.
“What we have done is put him under threat of criminal prosecution,” Rep. Steve Lynch (D-Mass.) assumed. “It puts him in jeopardy coming before this committee while that criminal referral is in existence. He’s an American citizen; I know the Constitution gets in the way of this committee sometimes.”
However, the leader of the Special Committee on Benghazi Trey Gowdy (R-NC) lamented; “I want to read the agreement between the Department of Justice and this witness and whether that agreement requires this witness to cooperate with other entities of government — that is commonplace! For them to say you can tell us the truth and not tell Congress makes no sense!”
Nevertheless at least one of the witnesses did answer questions from the committee members. He was a former senior adviser to former President Bill Clinton. The aide Justin Cooper played a key role in setting up Clinton’s private email system and server. His public testimony revealed that he had no security clearances when he set up the Clinton server, where the FBI found more than 2,000 classified documents.
Once Cooper left Bill Clinton’s employment he told the Committee that he had no security clearances and said he wasn’t even a communications security expert. “It was not in any way to destroy or hide any information at all,” Cooper swore. “In fact, the opposite would be the case in that I was going out of my way to preserve all the information that was on those devices.”
The big question remains, if that’s true, where are the 33,000 emails?
The answer may come from two Platte River Networks employees of the Colorado-based company that maintained the server. Bill Thornton and Paul Combetta were also subpoenaed and as expected, both asserted their Fifth Amendment rights and did not shed any daylight on the private server security.
It was the New York Times that publicly revealed Mrs. Clinton’s private server used during her four years as Secretary of State. According to a report, “a Platte River Networks technician deleted an archive of emails from the server in March 2015. The unconfirmed chronology suggests the deletion followed a House Benghazi Committee’s subpoena for records relating to the 2012 attack on the Libyan outpost. According to the notes of FBI investigators, longtime Clinton aide Cheryl Mills instructed technology vendor Platte River Networks to delete a set of archived emails in December 2014. Mills told investigators Clinton had decided she no longer needed access to emails older than 60 days.”
However, the employee forgot about the request and failed to destroy the emails immediately. The FBI report said, between March 25 and March 31 of 2015, the operator “believed he had an ‘oh s–t’ moment and … deleted the Clinton archive mailbox from [Platte River Networks] server and used BleachBit to delete the exported .PST files he had created on the server system containing Clinton’s emails.”
Last week it was learned that the company eventually decided to use BleachBit, expensive software designed to delete files that God couldn’t resurrect.
According to the report, the Platte River employee “was aware of the existence of the [Benghazi Committee] preservation request and the fact that it meant he should not disturb Clinton’s email data on the [Platte River Networks] server.”
Chaffetz wrote a letter to Platte River Networks asking about “The sequence of events leading up to the destruction of Secretary Clinton’s emails… raises questions about whether Secretary Clinton, acting through her attorneys, instructed [Platte River Networks] to destroy records relevant to the then-ongoing congressional investigations.”
But recovered emails revealed a different story. “Wondering how we can sneak an email now after the fact asking them when they told us to cut the backups and have them confirm it for our records. Starting to think this whole thing is really covering up some shaddy [sic] shit,” one exchange read. “I just think if we have it in writing that they told us to cut the backups, and we can go public saying we have had backups since day one, then we were told to trim to 30 days, it would make us look a WHOLE LOT better.”
Responding to that email chain Jordon said, “They wanted something in writing because they knew they were going to (be) thrown under the bus.”
Most ironic is Mrs. Clinton’s prompt ability to locate and publish an exculpatory 2009 email from former Secretary of State Colin Powell.
The fact-finding continues.