Bryan Pagliano’s offer of immunity from the Department of Justice represents another step forward in Hillary Clinton’s email server scandal, although the step is not in the direction her opponents had hoped.
They will ultimately be disappointed: This story has done nothing to hurt Clinton’s chances as front-runner for the Democratic nomination and it most likely bring Clinton’s email inquiry closer to an end. Pagliano is the man who set up Clinton's private email server.
Already, critics of Clinton from the left and right have interpreted Pagliano’s acceptance of immunity as proof that Clinton and the people working for her are fundamentally dishonest, and going to be prosecuted before November.
An article from American Thinker, for example, takes the position that a federal grand jury is likely to have already been convened and is more likely to hurt Clinton’s chances at becoming the nominee than it is to exonerate her.
On the left, H.A. Goodman of The Huffington Post seems to agree that Pagliano’s immunity offer represents doom for Clinton, and argues Clinton’s email baggage weighs her down as the Democratic nominee. This may certainly be true, but the sudden whiff of excitement over Pagliano is going to prove a short-lived victory lap for opponents as the election comes closer and Clinton remains the Democratic front-runner.
Why is this?
As Forbes’ Charles Tiefer notes, the offer of immunity means that Pagliano must give a full account of his involvement in setting up Clinton’s email server to the Department of Justice. It also means the DOJ must forego bringing a case against him, which they certainly would not do if agency officials believed they had a strong case.
Pagliano has not been accused of any offenses so far, and invoked his Fifth Amendment rights because he was hauled into the Republican-majority Senate Judiciary Committee in fall 2015. Given the aggressive, partisan and often openly biased way in which congressional committees operate and often treat witnesses, Pagliano invoking his Fifth Amendment rights was the correct move.
The DOJ has serious answers it wants from Pagliano over how the server was set up and what the implications of having sensitive information on that server ultimately were. And the idea of public officials conducting state business on ostensibly private lines of communication is something that is ethically and philosophically troubling, at the least.
But ultimately, Pagliano’s immunity offer will likely turn out to be a tempest in a teapot and lead to no major indictments of either close Clinton aides or Clinton herself before the election.