The State Department has lost all archived copies of the emails sent to and from the man believed to have set up and maintained Hillary Clinton’s private email server during the four years she served as secretary, it said on Monday.
However, the department has recovered some of IT specialist Bryan Pagliano’s messages, according to spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau, in apparent contradiction of a Republican National Committee (RNC) court filing earlier in the day.
“The absence of this email file, however, does not indicate that the department has no emails sent or received by him,” she added. “In fact, we have previously produced through [the Freedom of Information Act] and to Congress emails sent and received by Mr. Pagliano during Secretary Clinton’s tenure.”
The State Department had previously told Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) that it could not find any backups of Pagliano’s email as part of a congressional probe in December, but its acknowledgment of the missing files on Monday nonetheless inflamed criticism of the agency’s recordkeeping practices.
Trudeau declined to comment on how or whether Pagliano stored his emails, or whether he might have decided to delete them after a certain period of time.
“It is not required for employees to save every email they sent and received, however they must preserve federal records,” she told reporters during the daily State Department briefing.
The RNC demanded the IT aide's records as part of a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act filed earlier this year. The RNC went to court to obtain emails to and from Pagliano, among other records connected to Clinton’s time in office, as part of what is likely to be a protracted attack on the likely Democratic presidential nominee.
The State Department’s claim that it has found at least some messages to and from Pagliano, presumably through the accounts of other people that he communicated with, is at odds with a RNC filing earlier in the day, which made a more sweeping assertion.
“[T]he State Department has represented that no responsive records exist … [of] [a]ny and all emails sent to, or sent by, Bryan Pagliano for the time period May 1, 2009 through February 1, 2013,” the RNC said in a filing as part of the court case.
The State Department’s Monday evening statement, which came hours after the department first addressed the missing emails, seemed to take issue with the RNC’s description of its position.
“At no point did the State Department convey to the RNC that we did not intend to produce responsive emails within our possession, consistent with our obligations under the law,” Trudeau said in her statement. “As this matter is in ongoing litigation, as is standard, the department cannot comment further on this matter."
In addition to the emails, the State Department also does not have any text messages or BlackBerry Messenger messages sent to or from Clinton during her time in office, the RNC claimed. The State Department declined to discuss that declaration.
On Monday, federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson gave the State Department until May 23 to declare when it would hand documents over to the RNC or to file another motion.
Pagliano has emerged as a key figure in the growing saga surrounding Clinton’s controversial email setup.
After working on her 2008 campaign, Pagliano is reported to have set up the server in her Chappaqua, N.Y., home the following year and maintained it throughout her tenure as the nation’s top diplomat.
Earlier this year, the Justice Department granted Pagliano immunity in exchange for his cooperation with the FBI investigation connected to Clinton’s server, and the possibility that classified information may have been mishandled.
That investigation appears to be reaching its final stages, following reports in recent weeks that investigators and federal prosecutors have interviewed several Clinton aides. Clinton herself is expected to answer the government’s questions about the email setup in the coming days or weeks.