Clinton Email Update: Judicial Watch Releases Clinton State Department IT Official John Bentel Deposition Testimony
OCTOBER 25, 2016
Clinton Email Figure Takes Fifth Amendment 87 Times during Deposition
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch today released the deposition transcript of John Bentel, the State Department’s former Director of Information Resource Management of the Executive Secretariat (“S/ES-IRM”), who was ordered by U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan. S/ES-IRM is the office that handles information technology for the Office of the Secretary. Mr. Bentel answered 87 questions with “On advice from my legal counsel, I decline to answer the question and I invoke my Fifth Amendment rights.”
As with IT political appointee Bryan Pagliano, Bentel repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment right to not answer questions. Pagliano was the Clinton State Department IT official who reportedly provided support for the Clinton email system. The Bentel deposition transcript is available here.
Bentel asserted his Fifth Amendment right in answer to many key questions about issues raised directly by Judge Sullivan. On August 19, 2016, Judge Sullivan granted Judicial Watch’s request to depose Bentel, citing significant discrepancies in Bentel previous statements on the Clinton non-state.gov email system:
The Court is persuaded that Mr. Bentel should be deposed because the record in this case appears to contradict his sworn testimony before the [House Select] Benghazi Committee. . . . Specifically, Mr. Bentel testified that he was not aware that Secretary Clinton’s email account was housed on a private server until media reports in 2015. . . . However, several emails indicate Mr. Bentel knew about the private server as early as 2009.
Bentel asserted his Fifth Amendment rights in response all questions about what he knew about Hillary Clinton’s email system and its impact on the Freedom of Information Act.
In ordering Bentel’s deposition, Judge Sullivan also cited a May, 2016 Inspector General’s report that found:
Mr. Bentel told employees in his office that Secretary Clinton’s email arrangement had been approved by the State Department’s legal staff and also instructed his subordinates not to discuss the Secretary’s email again:
In one meeting, one staff member raised concerns that information sent and received on Secretary Clinton’s account could contain Federal records that needed to be preserved in order to satisfy Federal recordkeeping requirements. According to the staff member, the Director stated that the Secretary’s personal system had been reviewed and approved by Department legal staff and that the matter was not to be discussed any further. . . . According to the other S/ES-IRM staff member who raised concerns about the server, the Director stated that the mission of S/ES-IRM is to support the Secretary and instructed the staff never to speak of the Secretary’s personal email system again.
Bentel asserted his Fifth Amendment right when asked this reference State Department Inspector General’s report and about his FBI interview.
Mr. Bentel, on advice of Obama Justice Department and personal counsel, refused to answer any questions about whether Hillary Clinton was paying his legal fees, offered him employment, or other financial incentives. Pagliano also declined to say who was paying for his legal representation.
Judicial Watch deposed seven former Clinton top aides and current State Department officials, including top Clinton aides Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin. Judicial Watch also deposed IT official Brian Pagliano, who asserted his Fifth Amendment right not to testify during the Judicial Watch deposition. And Clinton last week answered Judicial Watch’s question under oath regarding her non-government email system.
The depositions come in connection with a Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit that seeks records about the controversial employment status of Huma Abedin, deputy chief of staff to former Secretary Clinton (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:13-cv-01363 )).
The full case history of the Abedin employment lawsuit is accessible on the Judicial Watch website.