The House Government Oversight Committee subpoenaed three key figures in the Hillary Clinton email scandal to testify at a hearing Tuesday. Two declined to testify, citing their Fifth Amendment rights. A third refused to show up at all.


One of those who took the Fifth was Paul Combetta, a technician at Platte River Networks, the company that handled Clinton’s email system. Combetta is the man who actually deleted Clinton’s email archives in March 2015, using the now-notorious BleachBit program. The Justice Department reportedly gave Combetta immunity in its investigation, yet he still refused to talk to Congress.

The other witness who appeared but would not talk was Bill Thornton, an engineer and co-worker of Combetta’s at Platte River Networks who worked on the Clinton system. The subpoenaed witness who refused to show up is Bryan Pagliano, the State Department worker who originally created Clinton’s private system. Like Combetta, Pagliano has received immunity.


Much of the early part of the hearing involved wrangling over the witnesses’ refusal to cooperate. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the Republican chair of the committee, tried to question Combetta and Thornton only to face the objection of Rep. Elijah Cummings, ranking Democrat on the panel, who argued that it was harassment to force the two to take the Fifth in public.

“This is an absolute abuse of authority,” Cummings said.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, a Republican committee member and also an investigator of the Clinton email scandal as chairman of the Benghazi Committee, got into an argument with Democratic Rep. Stephen Lynch over the extent of immunity granted to Combetta and Pagliano. What, exactly, does it cover? Chaffetz jumped in to say that no one knows, because the Justice Department won’t tell the committee about the immunity and the witnesses refuse to talk or to provide a copy of their immunity agreements.

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