Court will keep Clinton IT aide’s immunity deals secret

Court will keep Clinton IT aide’s immunity deals secret
© Getty Images

A federal court is keeping the lid on immunity deals between the government and an IT expert who helped set up Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe Memo: The center strikes back Democratic clamor grows for select committee on Jan. 6 attack White House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine MORE’s private email server.

In an order Tuesday, Judge Emmet Sullivan said the public’s need to access details of Bryan Pagliano’s deals was “minimal.”


“Indeed, the privacy interests at stake are high because the government's criminal investigation through which Mr. Pagliano received limited immunity is ongoing and confidential,” added Sullivan, a member of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The order means the public won't know the terms of Pagliano's deal, which lawyers have previously claimed was limited in scope and did not provide him blanket protection from prosecution.

The Justice Department has said that releasing the agreements “could prematurely reveal the scope and focus of the pending investigation.”

Sullivan’s use of the phase “criminal investigation” also confirms the stakes of the probe, which Clinton’s presidential campaign has repeatedly downplayed as a “security review.”

The agreements were granted as part of the federal government’s probe of the email setup Clinton used throughout her time as secretary of State. Officials could determine whether classified information was mishandled by Clinton moving all of her messages through a private server and personal email address.

Pagliano set up and maintained the server in the basement of Clinton’s New York home but has said he plans to assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination during a deposition with the conservative watchdog organization Judicial Watch. The group has sued the State Department under the Freedom of Information Act and begun interviewing former Clinton aides about her email setup and the department’s federal record-keeping responsibilities.

Pagliano was originally scheduled to be deposed earlier this month, but the session was postponed after his lawyers notified the court that he would plead the Fifth and object to the interview being recorded on video.

Now, lawyers for Judicial Watch and the former State Department contractor will need to meet to decide when he can be deposed, the judge ordered.

In his order on Tuesday morning, Sullivan declared that the deposition would be on video, against Pagliano’s wishes. However, like video recordings of other depositions in the court case, it will remain sealed.

Sullivan ordered Pagliano to hand over the immunity agreements earlier this month as part of a memorandum explaining his justification for pleading the Fifth.  

His decision not to answer Judicial Watch’s questions could still bode poorly for Clinton, because the law allows judges to view someone’s unwillingness to respond in a civil case as incriminating.

Clinton herself could be forced to testify in the case, Sullivan has said, and Pagliano’s decision to plead the Fifth might increase the likelihood that she is called to appear.