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Taking the Fifth: Clinton’s Legal Shield And Political Nightmare

“Gosh, I hope I have some key staffers taking the Fifth to avoid testimony before my party holds its first primary debate!” said absolutely, positively, no single politician ever on Planet Earth.

But Team Clinton is going there.

Clinton’s tech-guru Bryan Pagliano has announced he will “Take the Fifth” as the FBI and Congress investigates his boss’ shady email system.

So her allies are moaning about the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy and screaming at the top of their lungs that Hillary hasn’t been indicted for any crimes, and are pretending that none of this is happening.

It’s not going to work. There is no way to look good when a key figure in one on your team resorts to such measures.

Despite relentless Democrat spin attempts, the American people don’t think there is anything unreasonable about the House Select Committee on Benghazi asking perfectly reasonable questions about the Secretary of State’s controversial email system.

For that matter, as Democrats are about to learn, engaged and informed American voters have never been satisfied with Clinton or Barack Obama’s answers on Benghazi. Only the media and die-hard Democrat partisans (but I repeat myself) think this is “old news.”

Also, news broke on Thursday that Pagliano didn’t just invoke the Fifth Amendment to rebuff Rep. Trey Gowdy’s committee. He has also declined to work with the FBI and the State Department inspector general’s office. So much for the “Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy” dodge, especially if the FBI grants him immunity in exchange for testimony.

Pagliano cited the FBI investigation as a reason for taking the Fifth to avoid testifying before the House Benghazi Committee… and then he took the Fifth to avoid talking to the FBI? There’s an awful lot of smoke billowing over what Camp Clinton keeps insisting is not a fire.

The Clinton machine is trying to distance itself from Pagliano, if not throw him under the bus completely, by claiming they urged him to testify, and are terribly disappointed that he didn’t come clean.

No one is falling for that spin, and I do mean no one. Even Clinton press secretary Brian Fallon appeared to discover some self-respect while delivering the campaign line on CNN Thursday. (Don’t worry, he jettisoned the last of his self-respect by the end of the segment, and tried claiming he doesn’t know what “wiping a server” means. Yes, Hillary’s loyal munchkins are actually soiling themselves to make her look better by pretending it’s an arcane term, so she wasn’t hopelessly out-of-touch by infamously asking if “wiping a server” involved using a cloth.)

Humor can be very useful on the campaign trail, as Donald Trump can attest, but it’s deadly to be an absurd figure of corruption who becomes a laughingstock because of her shifty evasions and incredibly thin excuses. Hillary Clinton has long been in danger of protecting herself from legal jeopardy with a strategy that makes her look out-of-touch, old, incompetent and foolish: Hey, I’m not a crook, I’m just incredibly negligent and ignorant of technology.  Now make me President!  

She’s moving into a stage where she doesn’t just look dishonest and inept – she looks ridiculous.

She wasn’t a very good candidate, or really well-liked, even before scandal began eating her candidacy alive, so she doesn’t have a lot of room to pull stunts like this and come off like a lovable rogue, as her husband so often did.

As for Pagliano, whether he cooperates or not, we still need to know a lot more about him, such as what sort of security clearances and training he held, in order to work on a server that ended up shuffling sensitive, classified, and even Top Secret intel. Were his interactions with the server properly logged? Did he employ acceptable security measures when administering it remotely?

If he does have the proper clearances, it would torpedo Clinton’s long-standing claims that she never intended to handle any classified material on her email server. And if he wasn’t cleared, Clinton’s server is shaping up to be a historic breach of American national security protocols.

Rep. Gowdy, a former prosecutor, knows how the Fifth Amendment game is played. “You’ll have to ask him why he did it,” Gowdy told reporters, when asked why he thought Pagliano would refuse to testify on the grounds that he might legally incriminate himself. “And you’re free to glean whatever inference you want from the fact that he did it.”

On a long enough timeline, as with Lois Lerner and the IRS scandal, clamming up and pleading the Fifth can ice a scandal down and minimize the damage by preventing the story from reaching its climax. Presidential campaigns don’t have timelines that long, and the nice, non-ideological swing-voters really want to avoid presidential candidates covered in mucky scandals.

You might even say it runs Nixon-deep.

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