John Bentel, formerly the State Department Director of Information Resource Management of the Executive Secretariat, was deposed by lawyers for watchdog group Judicial Watch in U.S. District Court on Monday. He refused to answer by invoking his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination… over ninety times.
Judicial Watch was particularly interested in discrepancies between Bentel’s statements on Hillary Clinton’s secret email server. In sworn testimony before the House Benghazi Committee, Bentel claimed he was not aware Secretary of State Clinton’s email was handled through a private server until reading news stories to that effect in 2015, when the email scandal was first reported.
However, emails have been discovered indicating Bentel actually knew about the server as early as 2009. Furthermore, the Inspector General’s May 2016 report on the Clinton mail server indicated that Bentel told his own employees that her server had been fully approved by State Department legal staff, which would clearly indicate he knew of its existence. (The server was not, in fact, approved as he claimed.)
When he ordered Bentel’s deposition, U.S. District Court judge Emmet Sullivan noted that one of Bentel’s staff members correctly raised concerns that documents stored on Clinton’s server might not be preserved in accordance with federal record keeping requirements. After incorrectly assuring his staff that Clinton’s server was fully approved, Bentel ordered them never to talk about the email server again.
Bentel himself has now refused to discuss the server in court, blocking dozens of questions by reciting the Fifth Amendment – conduct made even more outrageous by the fact that he’s reportedly one of the top email scandal figures granted immunity to prosecution by the FBI.
“The fact that yet another State Department official took the Fifth highlights the disturbing implication that criminal acts took place related to the Clinton email and our Freedom of Information Act requests,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.
Clinton’s server technician Pryan Pagliano also refused to testify, invoking the Fifth Amendment even more often than Bentel did.