Bryan Pagliano set up and maintained Hillary’s Clinton’s private email server. But somehow, there’s no record that Pagliano ever sent Clinton an email while he worked for her at the State Department.
Those are the surprising, if preliminary, results from a lawsuit seeking information about State Department staffers linked to the former Secretary of State’s server, according to court documents filed Monday.
The absence of any email written or received by Pagliano, who worked for Clinton at the State Department and was the technology director of her 2008 presidential campaign, suggests an attempt to obscure his role in the controversy over Clinton’s private server, said a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, which filed the lawsuit in March.
“It’s hard to believe that an IT staffer who set up Hillary Clinton’s reckless email server never sent or received a single work-related email in the four years he worked at the State Department,” Raj Shah, the deputy communications director for the RNC, told The Daily Beast.
“Such records might shed light on his role in setting up Clinton’s server, and why he was granted immunity by the FBI,” Shah continued. “But it seems that his emails were either destroyed or never turned over, adding yet another layer to the secrecy surrounding his role.”
Since the beginning of the email saga 14 months ago, Pagliano has played a central but mysterious role. The Justice Department has given him immunity as part of a law enforcement investigation into the possible mishandling of classified information on the Clinton email server. Pagliano has reportedly been cooperating with investigators and is likely to know key facts about how the server was set up, who had access to it, and what precautions were taken to protect sensitive information.
Clinton’s campaign didn’t comment for this story. But a State Department spokesman objected to the RNC’s characterization of the reason no email records were found. “It is standard practice for the Department to decline comment on matters in litigation. That said, the Department disagrees with a number of assertions made in today’s filing, and will be responding in court,” department spokesperson Elizabeth Trudeau told The Daily Beast.
Trudeau explained that the department has searched for copies of Pagliano’s emails in a backup known as a .pst file, but that officials couldn’t locate one for the period of time that covers Clinton’s tenure as secretary. But the department has found a .pst file for Pagliano’s work at the department as a contractor after Clinton left office, Trudeau said. That period is beyond the scope of the RNC’s lawsuit.
It’s not clear why some backups for Pagliano’s emails were found but not others. A small number of emails to and from Pagliano have also been found in the records of other State Department employees and Clinton aides with whom he corresponded.
The State Department has also previously released one email that Pagliano sent to Clinton in 2012. It's not clear why that email wasn't turned over to the RNC.
“The Department acknowledges that we must work to improve our systems for records management and retention,” Trudeau said. “As part of this ongoing effort, the Department is now automatically archiving Secretary Kerry’s emails as well as the emails numerous senior staff.”
A lawyer for Pagliano didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The court filing Monday wasn’t the first time the department acknowledged having no email records of the time Pagliano worked for Clinton at State. Last year, Politico reported that the department told Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley it was unable to locate a backup of Pagliano’s emails.
But the RNC’s allegation that Pagliano or the State Department may have taken steps to keep the emails from public view underscored the significant role that the email controversy is likely to play in the presidential election.
The RNC has filed six lawsuits under the Freedom of Information Act seeking emails of Clinton and her aides, information about potential conflicts of interest between Clinton’s work as secretary and her family’s foundation, as well as information about training that department employees received on how to handle classified information.
Reviews of thousands of emails that Clinton turned over from her private server to the State Department have found information that some officials say is classified, though it wasn’t marked as such when it was disseminated.
Presumed Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who has taken to calling his rival “crooked Hillary” in stump speeches, has made the question of Clinton’s honesty and transparency a central part of his campaign.
And a federal judge ruled recently that a watchdog group that has sued for information about how the email server was set up may interview former top Clinton aides, including her chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, and Huma Abedin, one of her closest assistants.
Pagliano’s work for Clinton has also been a subject of scrutiny for congressional Republicans. Last December, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley told Secretary of State John Kerry that getting more details about Pagliano was his committee’s “highest priority request.”
Pagliano, for reasons he has never explained, invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to testify before the Judiciary Committee.
Pagliano has a long history with Clinton. After running technology for her 2008 campaign, he went to work for her political action committee. For his services setting up the email server Clinton used exclusively as secretary, Pagliano was paid directly by Clinton and her family.
Pagliano then came to work for Clinton at State but continued to be paid by the Clintons to maintain the server, the Washington Post reported. Pagliano didn’t list the outside income on mandatory financial disclosure forms.
For its part, the State Department may still find some of Pagliano’s emails, which are the subject of other lawsuits, as well.
“We are continuing to search for Mr. Pagliano’s emails which the Department may have otherwise retained,” Trudeau said. When it comes to FOIA [the Freedom of Information Act], the State Department works diligently to produce all responsive records in our possession.”