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Republicans pressure IT official for information about Clinton server

Republicans pressure IT official for information about Clinton server
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Senate Republicans are threatening legal recourse against a State Department IT official who has refused to answer their questions about Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTexas Supreme Court rejects Alex Jones request to toss lawsuits from Sandy Hook parents Paris Agreement: Biden's chance to restore international standing Samantha Power's Herculean task: Turning a screw with a rubber screwdriver 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.

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Yet more than three months after lawmakers reached out, he has refused to talk.

“In order to properly exercise our constitutional oversight functions, we need to speak to you,” Sens. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyOn The Money: Treasury announces efforts to help people get stimulus payments | Senate panel unanimously advances Yellen nomination for Treasury | Judge sets ground rules for release of Trump taxes Senate panel unanimously advances Yellen nomination for Treasury Finance Committee vote on Yellen nomination scheduled for Friday MORE (R-Iowa) and Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGOP senators call for commission to investigate Capitol attack Wisconsin Democrats make ad buy calling on Johnson to resign Efforts to secure elections likely to gain ground in Democrat-controlled Congress 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.