A former top State Department official is refusing to cooperate with Senate investigators regarding former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email server.
John Bentel, now retired, managed State’s IT security matters. He has declined to voluntarily talk to staff investigators from two Senate panels — the Judiciary Committee and the Homeland Security Committee — Politico reported.
In a letter, Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) both threatened to compel him to testify.
“We are troubled by your refusal to engage with the committees even after repeated overtures of accommodation,” the Republican senators wrote Bentel and his attorney. “We need to speak with you. … We would, of course, prefer that you meet with us in a voluntary and informal manner, but we will consider other options if faced with a continuing lack of cooperation.”
Bentel’s lawyer, Randy Turk of Baker Botts in Washington, D.C., said in a letter to the committees that his client already provided similar information to the House Select Committee on Benghazi.
“Mr Bentel … is understandably not inclined to go through that process again since he has already been questioned at great length about what he knows and what he recalls about that subject,” Turk wrote in an email last Thursday to the Senate investigators. “[I]t seems to me that what is really fair here would be for you and the committees to respect Mr. Bentley’s decision not to be interviewed a second time about the same subjects he has already been interviewed about at great length.”
Bentel is the second State Department IT staffer to refuse to answer questions from Congress about the Democratic presidential frontrunner’s private email server — as the FBI investigates whether classified information was mishandled.
Bryan Pagliano, who developed Clinton’s private server, also refused to answer questions from the House Benghazi Committee last September and refused to talk to the two Senate committees.
However, Pagliano, was recently granted immunity from the FBI to discuss the email without being prosecuted.
Citing his LinkedIn profile, Politico reports Bentel joined State in 1974 and served as director of information resources management in the office of the executive secretariat, which includes the secretary of state and other high-ranking State officials. It also oversees the State Department’s interactions with the White House, National Security Council and other agencies. So Bentel could be privy to what classified information was handled on the server.