| NEW YORK, Sept 13
NEW YORK, Sept 13 Two computer technicians
declined to answer questions from U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday
about the unauthorized private email system that Democratic
presidential nominee Hillary Clinton used during her tenure as
U.S. secretary of state.
Paul Combetta and Bill Thornton repeatedly invoked their
constitutional right not to incriminate themselves during about
10 minutes of questioning while under oath before the House
Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
The investigation of Clinton's email system has become a
troublesome issue for her presidential campaign, with Republican
rival Donald Trump saying a recent finding by federal
investigators that she mishandled classified government secrets
in her email should disqualify her from office.
A third technician, Bryan Pagliano, did not appear at
Tuesday's hearing despite a subpoena from the committee ordering
his testimony. Lawmakers can jail people who defy congressional
Combetta and Thornton work for Platte River Networks, the
Denver technology firm that began managing Clinton's email
servers soon after she left the State Department in 2013. They
invoked their Fifth Amendment protection from self-incrimination
to each question from lawmakers and Jason Chaffetz, the
committee's Republican chairman, excused them out of what he
called "respect" for their rights.
Elijah Cummings, the committee's most senior Democratic
member, expressed sympathy for the technicians, saying the
Republicans were only trying to use them to embarrass Clinton.
Chaffetz criticized Pagliano, who managed Clinton's server
while she was the nation's most senior diplomat, for not
complying with the subpoena and said the committee would decide
after the hearing whether to punish him. Pagliano, who joined
the State Department with Clinton but also was paid privately by
her for working on her server, was given a form of immunity from
prosecution in 2015 for cooperating with a federal investigation
into the mishandling of classified information over the server.
Clinton has said she regrets using the system in her New
York home's basement for work. Voters have repeatedly said in
surveys the decision contributes to a feeling she is
The hearing was one of a series called by the committee's
Republican leadership to answer questions the lawmakers say have
been left unanswered by a report released this summer by the
Federal Bureau of Investigation.
FBI director James Comey said in July there was evidence
that Clinton and her staff may have broken the law with their
"extremely careless" handling of classified government secrets
but concluded there was insufficient grounds to prosecute.
The FBI's report showed Combetta saying he used software
called BleachBit to delete an archive of Clinton's work emails
around the same time as a conference call with Clinton's
lawyers, despite lawmakers seeking the records through a
(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Bill Trott)