Two Senate committee chairmen are pressing the aide who set up former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email server to consider accepting limited immunity so he can testify to Congress despite his recent decision to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Clinton’s decision to use a private email account to conduct official business during her tenure at the State Department took on more gravity over the weekend with the disclosure that an intelligence review had confirmed two of the emails sent to Clinton contained highly classified information.
Investigators consider computer technology specialist Bryan Pagliano a potential key source of information about whether Clinton mishandled classified information, including the degree to which the private server was secured and backed up.
Pagliano was paid by a Clinton political committee to serve as her director of information technology through early 2009, when her first presidential run ended, campaign finance records show. News reports have said that he was paid by the State Department as an information technology specialist while continuing to maintain her private server.
In a Sept. 4 letter released on Tuesday, Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin asked Pagliano to dispatch his lawyer to meet with Senate aides and confidentially share what he knows so they can decide the best course.
But they also made clear that their committees have the power to compel Pagliano to testify about the decision that has caught the Democratic presidential front-runner in a firestorm.
“The committees have the authority to obtain an immunity order, to acquire the information they need, while also protecting your right against self-incrimination,” wrote Grassley, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and Johnson, who chairs the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
They asked that Pagliano make his attorneys available for a meeting to help the committees “assess whether it would be appropriate for either committee to consider obtaining an immunity order in these circumstances.”
Clinton says she never sent or received emails that were marked as classified. A murkier line is whether she should have known, as a condition of her security clearance, whether any classified information was included.
She disclosed in March, a month before launching her campaign, that she had turned over 30,490 official emails to the State Department, while deleting more than 31,000 others that were personal. She says the emails were screened so scrupulously that the State Department later returned 1,200 emails it deemed as personal.
On Aug. 11, the inspector general for the Intelligence Community notified several senior members of Congress that, after a review by representatives of intelligence agencies of a sample of 40 emails sent or received by Clinton, one had been classified as Top Secret/Secure Compartmentalized Information, and a second as Top Secret. Both classifications are reserved for highly sensitive information.
State Department officials challenged the classifications, and a new review was conducted. But The New York Times reported Tuesday that the findings had been upheld.
The review showed that “specific information in the two emails could only have been derived from classified intelligence programs,” said Andrea Williams, a spokeswoman for Inspector General I. Charles McCullough III of the Intelligence Committee. “Therefore the overall classification of those two emails remains unchanged.”