A former employee of the U.S. State Department who helped Hillary Clinton set up her personal email server has said he will not testify before a special congressional committee investigating the deadly 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Attorneys for Brian Pagliano sent a letter to the House committee Monday in which Pagliano invoked his constitutional right to not answer questions that could expose him to criminal charges.
The Washington Post, which initially reported the letter Wednesday, said Pagliano worked in the State Department in its information technology section during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013, having previously worked on her 2008 presidential campaign. He set up her private email server in her New York home in 2009.
Critics accuse Clinton of leaving her emails open to hackers and foreign agents by not using an official account. They also allege she is trying to hide controversial communications involving the Benghazi attack, which left four Americans dead. The controversy has overshadowed her campaign for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, causing her to gradually lose support among Democratic voters in many public opinion polls.
Congressman Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Benghazi panel, told the Post he understands why Pagliano asserted his Fifth Amendment rights, “especially given the onslaught of wild and unsubstantiated accusations” made by people with an “insatiable desire to derail Secretary Clinton’s campaign at all costs.”
Clinton has authorized the State Department to publicly release 55,000 pages of emails from her private account. She denies doing anything wrong and said it was more “convenient” to use one email account and one device when she was secretary of state.
“Looking back, it would have been better if I simply had used a second email account and carried a second phone,” Clinton said earlier this year. “But at the time, it didn’t seem like an issue.”
The latest batch of emails, which included 7,000 pages, was released on Monday night.
State Department Mark Toner said that about 150 of the Clinton emails have been re-marked as classified after they were examined by the Intelligence Community Inspector General. Toner said that so far, it appears that none of the emails was marked as classified or top secret at the time Clinton sent or received them.