A former Benghazi Committee staffer who says he was fired, in part, because he complained about a “partisan investigation” aimed at former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton had ample opportunity to raise his concerns over the past few month but did so only recently in order to help his forthcoming lawsuit, according to committee chairman Trey Gowdy.
“I was fired for going on military service and I was fired for trying to conduct an objective, non-partisan, thorough investigation,” the staffer, Bradley Podliska, told CNN in an interview that aired Sunday.
In a lawsuit to be filed next month, Podliska, an intelligence officer in the Air Force Reserve, claims his firing in June came after he questioned the committee’s focus on Clinton and because he requested a 39-day leave fulfill his military service requirements in Germany.
But Podliska, who began working for the committee as an intelligence investigator in Sept. 2014, only brought up the Clinton angle on Friday when he granted interviews to CNN and The New York Times to discuss his lawsuit against the committee, according to Gowdy.
“Until his Friday conversations with media, this staffer has never mentioned Secretary Clinton as a cause of his termination, and he did not cite Clinton’s name in a legally mandated mediation,” Gowdy said, adding that Podliska has not produced “documentary proof” that his termination was tied to the focus on Clinton.
Podliska’s claims have served as fodder for the Clinton campaign which has asserted that Gowdy’s investigation is politically-motivated. Those accusations gained steam earlier this month when House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy praised the committee’s work for contributing to Clinton’s slide in the polls.
In his interviews, Podliska said that after the discovery of Clinton’s off-the-books email server in early March, the committee resources were diverted away from a comprehensive investigation into the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi to focusing more on Clinton.
He also requested leave to complete reserve duties in Germany — an announcement that Podliska claims caused resentment among his colleagues and superiors.
With the discovery of Clinton’s mysterious email system, the investigation deemphasized “the other agencies that were involved in the Benghazi attacks and the aftermath of the attacks,” said Podliska.
“I knew that we needed to get to the truth to the victims’ families. And the victims’ families, they deserve the truth — whether or not Hillary Clinton was involved, whether or not other individuals were involved,” Podliska, an intelligence officer in the Air Force Reserve, told CNN’s Jake Tapper.
“I’m scared. I’m nervous. I know that this is, you know, I’m going up against powerful people in Washington,” said Podliska, who says he is a conservative Republican who will not vote for Clinton.
In his response to the accusations, Gowdy said that both of Podliska’s requests for leave were approved. Instead, he was terminated “for cause” in part because he mishandled classified information. Gowdy also implied that Podliska’s Clinton angle is part of a ploy to get paid.
“He has demanded money from the Committee, the Committee has refused to pay him, and he has now run to the press with his new salacious allegations about Secretary Clinton,” Gowdy said, also taking a shot at CNN for rushing “to air [Podliska’s] sensationalistic and fabulist claims.”
Podliska was paid $130,000 per year as an investigator for the committee. In his lawsuit Podliska asks for back pay. He also asks for his job back.
Gowdy also says that Podliska himself “was focused on Clinton improperly and instructed to stop.”
Podliska “requested interns do a project that focused on Clinton and the National Security Council” but was rebuffed by the committee’s deputy staff director, Gowdy said.
“This individual was hired as a former intelligence staffer to focus on intelligence, not the politics of White House talking points,” he added.
The South Carolina Republican also notes that in a Sept. 11 mediation filing, Podliska “specifically claimed his reserve status as a basis for his termination.”