Hillary Clinton Paid Staffer To Set Up Her Private Email Server & Even Though Aides Say It Was Legal, It Certainly Doesn't Help Her Campaign

Two campaign aides confirmed to reporters on Saturday that 2016 candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had paid a State Department staffer to set up her private email server back in 2009. According to the Clinton camp, IT specialist Bryan Pagliano was hired personally by Clinton to maintain that server for another five years, up until the end of Clinton’s tenure at the State Department. Despite criticism from Clinton’s opponents over Pagliano’s alleged non-disclosure of the payments, however, the aides maintained that the decision had been 100 percent legal, defending the IT specialist whom they called and “utter professional.”

“Bryan is an utter professional and a wonderful young man who does not live in the public eye and understandably may not wish to be drawn into a political spectacle,” said the aides of Pagliano’s decision not to speak in front of a House Select Committee about the matter. “[But] his decision is both understandable and yet also disappointing to us, because we believe he has every reason to be transparent about his IT assistance.”

According to The Washington Post, which first broke the story early Saturday morning, the decision to hire Pagliano wasn’t necessarily made out of a desire for secrecy, but, as Clinton claimed, a refusal to use taxpayer dollars for the install.

“According to the campaign official, [the private hire] ensured that taxpayer dollars were not spent on a private server that was shared by Clinton, her husband and their daughter as well as aides to the former president,” reported the paper.

However, a separate State Department official told reporters that Pagliano’s troubles allegedly stemmed more from the fact that he hadn’t officially disclosed the payments to his superiors than anything else. According to the unnamed official, Pagliano had originally submitted a financial disclosure form in April 2009, which highlighted the fact that Clinton had paid him $5,000 for unspecified “computer services.” After that, said the official, there was no indication that he had received any outside payment for his work, at least on paper.

Darren McCollester/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Clinton’s camp is correct in its assertion that Pagliano was acting lawfully when he took payments from the former Secretary and her family. As The Post pointed out, federal regulations “allow employees at Pagliano’s level to have outside employment but require that the extra income not exceed 15 percent of their government salary.” Employees must also file financial disclosure forms highlighting any potential conflicts of interest. So far, the State Department says it has not dug up any such paperwork.

On Saturday, Pagliano’s attorney, Mark J. MacDougall, also told Fox News’ Catherine Herridge that his client allegedly had no knowledge of the subsequent server scrub, in which Clinton admitted she had wiped some 30,000 personal emails that were supposedly personal and unrelated to any State Department business.

Whether or not Clinton and Pagliano were in the clear, however, is unimportant at this point: The new revelation just adds fuel to the fire that Clinton’s critics have stoked with their ever-increasing mountain of "Emailgate" accusations. At a time when the 2016 presidential candidate needs desperately to be on her game — a Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics Iowa Poll put out this week showed that her lead on Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders had decreased significantly, bringing Clinton’s Democratic rival to within seven points — the latest round of political fodder only serves to diminish her campaign.

In a brief but shrewd message on his Twitter Saturday, RNC Chief Strategist & Communications Director Sean Spicer deftly wrote, “Yeah, this is a problem.”