Oversight Committee votes to hold Clinton IT aide in contempt of Congress

Oversight Committee votes to hold Clinton IT aide in contempt of Congress
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The House Oversight Committee on Thursday morning voted on party lines to recommend that the House hold former State Department IT technician Bryan Pagliano in contempt of Congress.

Pagliano was responsible for setting up Clinton’s private email server during her tenure as secretary of State.

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The former State Department employee declined to appear at an Oversight hearing on Clinton's server last week, in spite of a subpoena demanding his presence. The committee held a follow-up hearing on the same subject on Thursday morning, which Pagliano also declined to attend.

When Pagliano didn’t show, Republicans immediately adjourned the hearing and held a business meeting to vote on the contempt of Congress resolution.

“Subpoenas are not optional,” Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzGuess who’s stumping for states' rights? GOP Rep. Gowdy slams Trump team for 'amnesia' on Russia meetings California Dem sworn in as House member after delay MORE (R-Utah) said Thursday. “Mr. Pagliano is a crucial fact witness in this committee’s investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonHouse Judiciary Committee votes to request documents on Comey, Clinton GOP senator warns Trump: Panel won't take up attorney general nominee this year Overnight Cybersecurity: Facebook invests in group fighting election hacking | House panel advances DHS cyber revamp bill | Lawmakers mull cyber insurance for small businesses MORE’s use of a private server to conduct government business.”

The resolution still needs to go to the House floor to be adopted.  

Outraged Democrats argued repeatedly that the move was an abuse of power that violates rules against harassing witnesses. 

"Never, no how, no way, no," Rep. Gerry ConnollyGerry ConnollyDem rep: Trump threatened Mueller by trying to set limits for Russia probe Overnight Cybersecurity: State Department reportedly eliminating cyber office | Senate Intel chief avoids White House during Russia probe | Dem pushes 'ethical hacking' resolution House panel approves backup plan to improve agencies' IT MORE (D-Va.) said when asked to vote on the resolution. 

The committee asked Pagliano be served by U.S. marshals, according to both Chaffetz and ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.). Chaffetz argued that the move was intended to prevent ambiguity, while Cummings characterized the move as harassment.

“The committee could have sent a staffer in a coat and tie, but they sent federal marshals with guns,” Cummings said. “This served no purpose but to harass and intimidate Mr. Pagliano.”

“These actions are the definition of abuse. They are harassment. And I believe they are unethical.”

Republicans say the subpoena was issued correctly and transparently, and that Pagliano has no reason not to testify. 

Oversight members on Thursday morning reviewed an immunity agreement struck between Pagliano and the Department of Justice during the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s server, according to a Democratic committee aide.

“Under those circumstances, Mr. Pagliano has no fear of criminal liability preventing him from testifying before the committee,” Chaffetz said Thursday.

Democrats say that the agreement is “limited” and therefore does not protect Pagliano before the Oversight Committee. Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) pointed to an outstanding criminal referral from Chaffetz that asked the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia to investigate deletions from the server.

In a letter sent to the committee Wednesday night, Pagliano’s lawyers say that the former State Department employee has already asserted his Fifth Amendment rights before the House Benghazi Committee and should not be forced to do so again. 

“You and the committee have been told from the beginning that Mr. Pagliano will continue to assert his Fifth Amendment rights and will decline to answer any questions put to him by your committee,” his lawyers said.

“A subpoena issued by a Congressional committee is required by law to serve a valid legislative purpose and there is none here,” reads the letter, which refers to the committee’s efforts to force Pagliano to testify as a “naked political agenda” with “no valid legislative aim.”