Tech­ni­cians for Clin­ton server refuse to tes­tify

A 3rd wit­ness fails to show at in­quiry on Capi­tol Hill

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By Del Quentin Wil­ber

WASHINGTON — Two tech­ni­cians who worked on Hil­lary Clin­ton’s pri­vate email server re­fused Tues­day to an­swer ques­tions posed by House law­mak­ers, cit­ing their con­sti­tu­tional right to re­main silent.

The men, in­clud­ing one who re­port­edly erased an ar­chive of Clin­ton’s emails de­spite be­ing aware of an or­der to pre­serve them, re­peat­edly as­serted their Fifth Amend­ment right against self-in­crim­i­na­tion. They were ex­cused from the hear­ing

third, for­mer State Depart­ment staffer Bryan Pagliano, who played a key role in set­ting up the server, did not show up to tes­tify be­fore the House Govern­ment Over­sight and Re­form Com­mit­tee.

Com­mit­tee chair­man Ja­son Chaf­fetz, R-Utah, said the wit­nesses’ de­ci­sion not to an­swer ques­tions will com­pli­cate ef­forts to learn more about the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date’s use of the con­tro­ver­sial pri­vate email server. He was par­tic­u­larly irked by Pagliano’s de­ci­sion not to ap­pear, de­spite hav­ing been sub­poe­naed.

“It’s not op­tional,” Chaf­fetz said.

Pagliano’s lawyers, led by Mark MacDougall, sent a let­ter to Chaf­fetz on Mon­day, say­ing their client has re­peat­edly as­serted his Fifth Amend­ment rights be­fore Con­gress and do­ing so again “serves no leg­isla­tive pur­pose and is a trans­par­ent ef­fort to pub­licly ha­rass and hu­mil­i­ate” the for­mer staffer.

Rep. Eli­jah Cum­mings, D-Md., de­fended the de­ci­sion of the tech­ni­cians and Two as­serted their Fifth Amend­ment rights while a for­mer State Depart­ment staffer failed to ap­pear. Pagliano to as­sert their right to re­main silent, say­ing, “This com­mit­tee is abus­ing tax­payer dol­lars and the au­thor­ity of Con­gress in an as­ton­ish­ing on­slaught of po­lit­i­cal at­tacks to dam­age Sec­re­tary Clin­ton’s cam­paign.” He and other Democrats have long ac­cused House Repub­li­cans of us­ing their in­ves­tiga­tive pow­ers as a po­lit­i­cal at­tack against Clin­ton.

The two tech­ni­cians, Paul Com­betta and Bill Thorn­ton, work for Platte River Net­works, a pri­vate com­pany based in Colorado that started man­ag­ing the server in 2013.

Com­betta told FBI agents that when the use of the server be­came pub­lic knowl­edge in March 2015, he re­al­ized he had not deleted an ar­chive of emails on Platte River’s server as di­rected by a Clin­ton aide four months ear­lier. He then deleted the files us­ing a soft­ware pro­gram known as BleachBit, which later com­pli­cated ef­forts to re­cover the data, ac­cord­ing to an FBI re­port and a source fa­mil­iar with its find­ings.

Com­betta, who Cum­mings said was granted limited im­mu­nity by the Jus­tice Depart­ment for his co­op­er­a­tion in the probe, told the FBI he was aware of a con­gres­sional or­der to pre­serve doc­u­ments but had not re­ceived any spe­cific guid­ance about it.

Clin­ton and her aides told the FBI they were un­aware that Com­betta had deleted emails in March 2015.

The FBI and Jus­tice Depart­ment con­cluded there was no ev­i­dence that Clin­ton or her aides de­lib­er­ately tried to con­ceal or delete work-re­lated emails that should have been turned over to author­i­ties.

Justin Cooper, a for­mer em­ployee of Bill Clin­ton and the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion, helped set up and run the server from 2009 through 2013 in the base­ment of the Clin­tons’ home­inNewYork. He also ap­peared be­fore the com­mit­tee and an­swered ques­tions posed by law­mak­ers in line with what he pre­vi­ously had told the FBI, ac­cord­ing to the bu­reau’s re­port.

The hear­ing is the lat­est in a string of pro­ceed­ings seek­ing to ex­am­ine Clin­ton’s email prac­tices since the Jus­tice Depart­ment in July de­clined to press crim­i­nal charges against her.

FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey called Clin­ton’s han­dling of clas­si­fied ma­te­rial “ex­tremely care­less” but said she did not know­ingly or will­fully mis­han­dle sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion.

MOLLY RI­LEY/AP

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