WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department said Friday it doesn’t want the public to see its immunity deal with a former government employee who installed the private email server in Hillary Clinton’s basement, arguing that its release could jeopardize an ongoing FBI probe.
Ex-State Department staffer Bryan Pagliano had been set to answer questions under oath earlier this week. The deposition was scheduled in a lawsuit filed by the conservative legal advocacy group Judicial Watch over access to emails sent and received by the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee when she was secretary of state.
The deposition was delayed indefinitely when lawyers for Pagliano told U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan he would invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The lawyers also cited their client’s immunity deal with the Justice Department, granted in exchange for his cooperation with the FBI investigation. Pagliano previously refused to testify before a congressional committee investigating Clinton’s email setup.
Sullivan responded by ordering Pagliano’s lawyers to produce a copy of their client’s written agreement with the government.
In court filings, the government said releasing the deal could make public confidential details about the FBI’s separate probe into whether classified information that flowed through Clinton’s server was mishandled. Clinton is expected to be interviewed soon as part of that ongoing investigation.
“Releasing Mr. Pagliano’s agreements with the United States could prematurely reveal the scope and focus of the pending investigation,” the Justice Department said in its motion.
If Sullivan follows through on his order to see the immunity paperwork, the Justice Department said the documents should be filed under seal. In a separate filing, lawyers for Judicial Watch argued that Pagliano’s agreement with the government should be made public.
At issue in the Judicial Watch case is whether the State Department conducted an adequate search of public records in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed in 2013. The group is seeking records related to former Deputy Secretary of State Huma Abedin’s outside work as a paid consultant for a charitable foundation run by Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton.
There have been at least three dozen civil lawsuits filed, including one by The Associated Press, over public records requests related to Clinton’s tenure as the nation’s top diplomat from 2009 to 2013.
A separate review by the State Department’s Inspector General concluded last month that Clinton and her team ignored clear internal guidance that her email setup broke federal standards and could have left sensitive material vulnerable to hackers. Clinton has called her decision to rely on the private server a mistake, but contends she violated no laws.
The State Department has thus far released more than 52,000 pages of Clinton’s work-related emails, including a small percentage that have been redacted because they contain information considered sensitive to national security. Thousands of additional emails have been withheld by Clinton, whose lawyers say they contain personal messages unrelated to her government service.
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