State Department officials were never sure what to make of a special tech assistant who former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton brought in as a political appointee, according to email exchanges that took place at the time.

Those exchanges were included in a newly unveiled letter that Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee sent last week to Patrick Kennedy, the department's under secretary for management. Lawmakers are trying to find who in the department, if anyone, participated in the oversight of a private server that Clinton used to process her email.

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The exchange reveals the confusion officials expressed over Clinton's naming of Bryan Pagliano, who set up Clinton's basement server, as a political appointee, elevating him beyond the status of typical IT workers in the department. The secretary's appointees are typically intended to report to appointees of the president, but because no one in the tech department fit that description, Pagliano's supervision fell to Kennedy.

However, Kennedy has disavowed knowledge of Pagliano's activities in Clinton's basement. "Pagliano and Kennedy had little contact," the department reportedly told Reuters.

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Other employees in the IT department similarly denied knowing anything. Susan Swart, who served as Clinton's chief adviser on the departmental IT systems, and her deputy, Charlie Wisecarver, both denied having knowledge, in spite of supervising Pagliano within the IT department.

Nonetheless, Senate Republicans apparently have reason to believe that someone did know. The letter sent last week suggests Pagliano received a security briefing in relation to the server in late 2010 or early 2011. The State Department would not confirm the statement.

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Pagliano was granted immunity by the Justice Department this month in exchange for information about Clinton's server. It isn't known whether it was a more limited version known as proffer immunity or a complete form known as statutory immunity. In the event it was the second, it is likely that officials are seeking to impose criminal charges on at least one of the parties involved.