For months, the State Department has refused to answer a request from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Now, the GOP is accusing the State Department of stonewalling NARA to protect Hillary Clinton.
NARA had asked State to explain why it has been unable to produce the email records of Bryan Pagliano, the State Department information technology staffer who helped maintain Hillary Clinton’s private server while she was secretary of State.
Via ABC News:
During the course of Clinton’s email imbroglio, Pagliano developed a reputation as quiet insider with knowledge of Clinton’s controversial email configuration. He signed an immunity agreement with the Justice Department in exchange for cooperating with FBI investigators examining Clinton’s use of that private email server and has invoked his Fifth Amendment rights hundreds of times in response congressional and legal inquiries.
In May, the State Department announced it couldn’t find any evidence that Pagliano had turned over his emails prior to leaving the department, which he would have been required by law to do.
According to the new documents obtained by the Republican National Committee (RNC) through freedom of information requests and shared with ABC News, NARA asked the State Department on July 18 to provide a report within 30 days explaining why it’s been unable to produce Pagliano’s emails.
Three months later, however, the State Department has yet to respond.
In its letter to the State Department’s records office, NARA also said “if it’s determined Federal records have been alienated or destroyed, please describe all measures your agency has taken, or expects to take, to retrieve the alienated records or retrieve them, to the extent necessary and appropriate.”
Stated RNC Chairman Reince Priebus to ABC News:
The State Department is clearly stonewalling another federal agency’s efforts to recover the emails of the IT staffer who set up Clinton’s illegal server and was granted immunity by the FBI. If this isn’t an Obama Administration cover-up to protect Hillary Clinton, I don’t know what is.
The State Department responded with a statement that, per ABC News, “did not offer a reason for missing the deadline or an explanation of what efforts it has taken to retrieve the emails.”
Said State Department spokesman John Kirby:
As we have publicly explained months ago, the Department has searched for Mr. Pagliano’s email pst file and has not located one that covers the time period of Secretary Clinton’s tenure. As we have also previously explained, employees’ emails have not always been automatically retained, so the absence of this email file does not necessarily indicate that Mr. Pagliano intentionally deleted his emails.
The RNC suspects that Pagliano did delete his emails, but says that even if he did not delete them, he should have known of his responsibility to retain federal records:
The RNC told ABC News that NARA could request that the U.S. attorney general initiate action to recover those emails and that any such investigation into what happened to those emails could be problematic for Pagliano — assuming he deleted the records, as the RNC believes. Penalty for unlawful or accidental removal or destruction of records can include a fine, imprisonment or both.
Although the details of Pagliano’s immunity agreement with the Justice Department aren’t publicly known, the RNC believes it’s unlikely the agreement would protect him from potential prosecution for the alleged destruction of federal records.
The House Oversight Committee voted last month to hold Pagliano in contempt of Congress after he failed, for a second time, to show up and testify about the emails of his former boss:
Mrs. Clinton last year urged Mr. Pagliano to cooperate with investigations into her emails, but he has refused to talk to two congressional committees. He did speak to the FBI after being granted immunity.
The 19-15 committee vote Thursday is a recommendation, which now goes to the whole House.
If the contempt charge is approved, it likely would be up to the administration to pursue the case against Mr. Pagliano.
Emails that have been produced by the State Department show that Hillary Clinton was less than forthcoming when questioned by Judicial Watch about her emails.
In sworn testimony on October 13, Clinton testified that she did not recall communicating with Pagliano about her emails. However, State Department documents released on October 19 showed Clinton was in direct contact with Pagliano about a problem her BlackBerry device was having receiving emails:
The new documents were among the nearly 15,000 Clinton emails discovered by the FBI, and obtained in response to an April 8, 2016, federal court order directing the Department of State to begin producing materials for Judicial Watch in response to a September 3, 2015 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:15-cv-01441)). The lawsuit was filed after State failed to comply with an August 5, 2015 FOIA request seeking information about Bryan Pagliano’s involvement with Clinton’s email system.
The Trump campaign released a statement Wednesday saying that State’s lack of action on the emails is “deeply distressing”:
Today’s report that the State Department is refusing to hand over records belonging to Clinton IT staffer Bryan Pagliano is deeply distressing and makes one wonder exactly what they are trying to keep secret. The State Department must release these documents immediately as the American people have a right to know what is contained within those documents before election day.