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Clinton ex-staffer invokes right to silence over emails

11 september 2015, 15:16

The former Hillary Clinton staffer who helped set up the private email server she used while secretary of state invoked his constitutional right Thursday to not answer questions before a US House committee, AFP reports.

Bryan Pagliano invoked his Fifth Amendment right to silence in order to avoid incriminating himself at a closed-door session, the House Benghazi Committee's Republican chairman Trey Gowdy said.

"He has a right to invoke his privilege against incrimination," said Gowdy, after Pagliano left the meeting room in the US Capitol without talking to reporters.

Gowdy said he prepared 19 pages of questions for Pagliano, who reportedly worked for Clinton during her 2008 presidential campaign as well as at the State Department.

Pagliano was identified as the person who set up Clinton's email server in 2009.

Clinton is the Democratic frontrunner in the 2016 presidential race, but her campaign has suffered amid public scrutiny of her private email account and server.

Gowdy said one would have to ask Pagliano,  and other Democrats "why the person who set up a server, if that is all that he did, exposes himself to criminal liability because of the mere act of setting up a server.

"I can't possibly answer that question," Gowdy added.

Clinton is scheduled to testify October 22 before the committee, which is investigating the 2012 terrorist attacks against the US mission in eastern Libya.

Friday marks the third anniversary of Benghazi attacks, which left four Americans dead, including US ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens.

Huma Abedin, a top Clinton aide at the State Department and a member of her presidential campaign staff, is scheduled to appear before the committee ahead of Clinton, Gowdy said, but he declined to provide the date.

Critics of the committee's Republican leadership accuse Gowdy of launching a witch hunt against Clinton.

Gowdy insisted Thursday it was "legitimate" to subpoena Pagliano to seek information about missing emails that Gowdy said were not handed over to the State Department as part of Clinton's official communications while she was the top US diplomat.

"He would be able to speak to the wholeness and completeness of the record," Gowdy said.

The committee's ranking Democrat, Elijah Cummings, slammed Thursday's meeting as "pure political theater," particularly because Gowdy has refused to consider granting Pagliano immunity in exchange for his testimony.

"Mr. Pagliano's testimony has nothing to do with the Benghazi attacks and everything to do with Republicans' insatiable desire to derail Secretary Clinton's presidential bid," Cummings said in a statement.

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