Senate Republicans are threatening legal recourse against a State Department IT official who has refused to answer their questions about Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonTrump tweets: 'Trump Russia story is a hoax' Path to 60 narrows for Trump pick Overnight Cybersecurity: New questions for House Intel chair over WH visit | Cyber war debate heats up | Firm finds security flaws in 'panic buttons' MORE’s private email server.
The leaders of the Senate Judiciary and Homeland Security committees earlier this month told the official, John Bentel, that he was “an integral figure” in the State Department and should be able to answer questions about the unusual setup that Clinton used while serving as secretary of State.
“In order to properly exercise our constitutional oversight functions, we need to speak to you,” Sens. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyRNC head: Dems acting ‘petty’ to Gorsuch Dems delay Senate panel vote on Supreme Court nominee Grassley wants details on firm tied to controversial Trump dossier MORE (R-Iowa) and Ron JohnsonRon JohnsonLawmakers share photos of their dogs in honor of National Puppy Day GOP targets Baldwin over Wisconsin VA scandal The Hill's Whip List: 36 GOP no votes on ObamaCare repeal plan MORE (R-Wis.) wrote to Bentel’s lawyer. The letter was sent on March 4 but released on Monday.
The lawmakers said that they would prefer a “voluntary and informal” meeting, but “we will consider other options if faced with a continuing lack of cooperation," potentially referring to a subpoena.
Bentel was the director of information resource management in the State Department’s Office of Executive Secretariat, and as such “may have specific knowledge relating to Secretary Clinton’s private server and email arrangement,” the lawmakers wrote. They suggested he also could talk about IT issues connected to the BlackBerry that Clinton used while in office.
Another State Department IT official, Bryan Pagliano, had previously refused to comply with Republican lawmakers’ efforts to interview him.
Earlier this month, however, news leaked that he had struck a deal for immunity in the Justice Department probe connected to Clinton’s email server. Following that report, which Attorney General Loretta Lynch has refused to discuss, Grassley and Johnson reached out to Pagliano to encourage him to testify on Capitol Hill.
Clinton, who is now the Democratic presidential front-runner, has repeatedly called the use of a private server a “mistake,” though she denies breaking any laws.
Bentel had previously voluntarily answered questions in the House’s Select Committee on Benghazi, Grassley and Johnson noted in their letter.
Staffers on the Judiciary Committee reached out to Bentel’s lawyer in December, lawmakers claimed, but were rebuffed.
In a response quoted in this month’s letter, his lawyer, Randall Turk, told lawmakers that Bentel had “no memory or knowledge” of the issues he was questioned about and that there is “little point” in going through the process again.
However, the senators’ probe is focused squarely on Clinton’s email server, lawmakers insisted, and questions “would most certainly be different from the Benghazi Committee.”
This story was updated at 1:20 p.m. to reflect that Republicans are considering legal recourse against John Bentel if he refuses to answer their questions. A previous version contained incorrect information.