IT staffer who set up Hillary's e-mail server takes Fifth in federal court deposition

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Published by: Dan Calabrese on Thursday June 02nd, 2016

Even though he has immunity.

I guess Bryan Pagliano just doesn't like to talk very much. He wouldn't testify before a congressional committee investigating Benghazi, taking the Fifth because he supposedly feared "ambiguity." And now he's not going to give a deposition in a federal records lawsuit filed by the conservative group Judicial Watch because he's afraid the deposition will be captured on video and later released.

All this from a guy who's been granted immunity in the Hillary e-mail investigation. It makes sense that the FBI and Justice gave him the immunity deal because he's the one who not only handled IT issues for Hillary's 2008 presidential campaign and also at the State Department, but also set up her schlock, homebrew e-mail server at her home. But if it makes sense for him to keep taking the Fifth all the time, it's not because he fears ambiguity. It's because he fears its opposite - clear evidence that someone broke the law and he was right in the middle of it.

The Washington Post, which runs interference for Hillary on this issue as often as not, reports it like this:

On Wednesday, Pagliano’s lawyers said he will decline to testify in the Judicial Watch case and asked that U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of the District order that no video of the deposition be recorded “given the constitutional implications, the absence of any proper purpose . . . and the considerable risk of abuse.”

“Mr. Pagliano is a nonparty caught up in a lawsuit with an undisputed political agenda,” Connor Mullin wrote in a court filing that also raised the concern that Pagliano’s constitutionally protected statements might be manipulated into “soundbites” for attack ads.

An existing court order seals video records, but while that “reduces the risk of dissemination,” Mullin said, “Judicial Watch may move to unseal the materials at any time. Furthermore, in the event of a leak or data breach at the court reporting company, Mr. Pagliano would be hardpressed to prevent further dissemination and republication of the video.”

Judicial Watch said it will oppose the request not to record video in a filing due Thursday, the group’s president, Tom Fitton, said. “We think it’s important for Judge Sullivan to assess Mr. Pagliano’s demeanor,” Fitton said in an interview Wednesday. “It’s always important to assess credibility when the Fifth Amendment privilege is invoked.”

Nothing in Pagliano's argument here involves the risk of self-incrimination, which is the purpose of the Fifth Amendment. Instead, he's arguing that the deposition is pointless and that the whole thing is political - neither of which his call to make. That's up to the judge. He's also upset because he thinks part of the video testimony could end up later in a political ad. That may or may not be a valid concern but it has nothing to do with his Fifth Amendment privileges.

What's happening here is that Pagliano and his lawyers are redefining the Fifth Amendment so they can use it as an excuse to avoid being deposed. He can always refuse to answer a question in deposition if he or his lawyers feel that answering might incriminate him. What they've done instead is put forward their own political agenda as a reason not to testify, and cloaked all this in the Fifth Amendment.

This development seems to cut against earlier reports that Pagliano has been a "devastating" witness in FBI interviews, but it's possible there is no contradiction. Pagliano has immunity in the FBI's investigation. He wouldn't necessarily have it in the Judicial Watch lawsuit. And a behind-closed-doors FBI interview is not the same thing as a videotaped deposition.

The real question here is whether Pagliano is trying to protect himself or Hillary. The fact that he accepted the immunity deal from Justice suggests he's prepared to throw Hillary under the bus, although his lame excuses for avoiding the Judicial Watch deposition sound more like attempts to protect her politically. Maybe it's a combination of the two. Maybe he engaged in such serious lawbreaking on her behalf that he knows he'll go down with her absent his immunity deal, and he has no choice but to zip it in any conversation where his immunity might not apply - even if he has to invent some very novel interpretations of the Fifth Amendment in order to do so.

It can't be fun to be Hillary watching all this and trying to assess just how bad this is going to get for her. But then, a pathological liar never has a real moment of peace. It comes with the territory.

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