Senate Republicans: Offer immunity to Pagliano

Hillary Clinton’s privately-paid IT specialist Bryan Pagliano refuses to cooperate with the FBI and pledged to take the Fifth if called to testify by Congress or a grand jury. Now that Pagliano’s under-the-table payments from Hillary have been exposed, it’s easier to understand his reluctance to discuss his arrangements. That doesn’t mean that investigators have no options to get Pagliano’s cooperation, however, and Senate Republicans want to make the next obvious play:

Two Senate chairmen want to give immunity to Hillary Clinton’s former top IT staffer, who’s planning to invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to answer incriminating questions from congressional investigators.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Homeland Security and Government Affairs Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) hope an immunity agreement would allow Bryan Pagliano to testify about the former secretary of state’s unusual email server setup. They sent a letter to Pagliano and his lawyer this week asking him to “make yourself available to provide information.”

They have asked Pagliano’s attorney to enter into a “proffer session” to allow investigators to see whether a grant of immunity will be worthwhile. A proffer session allows both sides to discuss potential testimony in general terms without the risk of self-incrimination to measure whether the case will gain from it or not. In other words, they want to know whether Pagliano can provide direct evidence of wrongdoing on the part of others, or whether he’s just covering up for himself.

First things first. If Pagliano and his attorney take up the offer of a proffer session, then they’re definitely looking for an escape hatch. But how likely will that be? His attorney, Mark MacDougall, works at the well-connected DC law firm of Akin Gump. Coincidentally or not, Team Hillary’s campaign treasurer also works at Akin Gump, as does longtime Clinton pal Vernon Jordan. A State Department IT tech certainly seems … fortunate to have landed such high-powered representation, no? If one was to arrange a legal way to spill the beans on Hillary, it would seem unlikely that one would have chosen this particular firm to make the arrangements.

Even if Pagliano and his attorney refuse to cooperate in a proffer session, immunity can still be granted — and that would still negate Pagliano’s use of the Fifth Amendment. If a person is no longer at risk of self-incrimination, then he has to testify fully when under subpoena. A further refusal to testify can bring a contempt charge. If this happens in Congress, it’s contempt of Congress and the Department of Justice would have to prosecute it. With this administration, that’s a long shot, but it’s still possible. If the refusal takes place with a grand jury or in a trial, a judge can simply lock up the recalcitrant witness, in some cases indefinitely.

If this case gets to a grand jury or trial, though, I doubt anyone will be refusing immunity.