The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted Thursday morning to hold former State Department IT technician Bryan Pagliano in contempt of Congress. The contentious party line vote came after Pagliano for a second time declined to appear at an Oversight hearing, in spite of a subpoena.
Pagliano is the IT staffer who set up Clinton’s private email server for her when she was secretary of State.
“Subpoenas are not optional,” Chairman Jason Chaffetz said. “Mr. Pagliano is a crucial fact witness in this committee’s investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server to conduct government business.”
Via The Hill:
The resolution still needs to go to the House floor to be adopted.
Outraged Democrats argued repeatedly that the move was an abuse of power that violates rules against harassing witnesses.
“Never, no how, no way, no,” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said when asked to vote on the resolution.
The committee asked Pagliano be served by U.S. marshals, according to both Chaffetz and ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.). Chaffetz argued that the move was intended to prevent ambiguity, while Cummings characterized the move as harassment.
“The committee could have sent a staffer in a coat and tie, but they sent federal marshals with guns,” Cummings said. “This served no purpose but to harass and intimidate Mr. Pagliano.”
“These actions are the definition of abuse. They are harassment. And I believe they are unethical.”
Republicans say the subpoena was issued correctly and transparently, and that Pagliano has no reason not to testify.
Democrats argue that the agreement is “limited” and therefore does not protect Pagliano before the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) pointed to an outstanding criminal referral from Chaffetz that asked the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia to investigate deletions from the server.
In a letter sent to the committee Wednesday night, Pagliano’s lawyers say that the former State Department employee has already asserted his Fifth Amendment rights before the House Benghazi Committee and should not be forced to do so again.
“I read the immunity agreement,” said Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC). “What I find interesting is the doublespeak that I hear from some of my colleagues. You cannot in one sentence say DOJ has refused to prosecute so this is a nothing case, and then in the next sentence say that you’re worried that the DOJ is going to prosecute.” He continued, “Congress cannot prosecute anyone for anything. Anything! The only entity that can level criminal charges is the executive branch. And they have already said that they are not going to do so! So where is this criminal exposure?!”
The former prosecutor went on to say that perhaps Democrats are worried that Pagliano might make a false statement before Congress.
“Well guess what? The agreement he has with the Department of Justice requires him to be truthful” so Democrats should want him to say the same things to congress that he said to the FBI.
“God forbid we ask the FBI anything,” said Gowdy. “All I want to know is — did you give immunity to the person who destroyed federal records after a subpoena was in place?” He concluded, “That is a fair question which I would think every member of Congress would want to know the answer to.”