A former staffer for the Republicans on the House Select Committee on Benghazi alleged that he was unlawfully fired in part because he resisted focusing his investigative efforts on Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton, The New York Times and CNN reported Saturday.
Bradley Podliska, an Air Force reserve major who served as an investigator for 10 months, told the news outlets that he plans to file a federal lawsuit next month against the select committee for wrongful termination.
He alleged to CNN that he lost his job in part because he resisted the “partisan investigation” the committee pursued following revelations that Clinton exclusively used a private email account during her tenure as secretary of state. Podliska also said that his taking a leave from the committee to fulfill his active duty obligations factored into his termination, which would be unlawful.
The reports differed as to exactly when Podliska was terminated. The New York Times reported he was terminated after returning from active duty in late March; CNN reported that he was fired in late June.
In a statement to the Times, the select committee denied Podliska’s allegations and countered that the staffer was fired in part because “he himself manifested improper partiality and animus in his investigative work,” including toward Clinton.
“The committee vigorously denies all of his allegations,” the statement read. “Moreover, once legally permitted to do (sic), the committee stands ready to prove his termination was legal, justified and warranted — on multiple levels.”
The statement provided to the Times also said that Podliska received “repeated counseling for performance and lack of judgment.”
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) caused a stir last week when he credited the select committee with dragging down Clinton’s poll numbers. His Republican colleagues denounced those comments and McCarthy went on to drop out of the running for House speaker on Thursday.
Democrats had seized on McCarthy’s “gaffe” as evidence that the select committee was created by Republicans to disrupt Clinton’s presidential bid and quickly cited Podliska’s allegations as further proof of that theory.
“Even before Kevin McCarthy’s comments laid bare the true intent of the
committee, it’s been clear that Secretary Clinton has been the true target of this investigation, and the Republican whistleblower who has come forward only provides further evidence of what has been long evident,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who serves on the select committee and has called for it to be disbanded, said in a statement.
Podliska, who described himself as a conservative Republican, told CNN that he decided to come forward because he didn’t feel the committee was carrying out its stated purpose to uncover the truth about the deaths of the four Americans who died in the September 11, 2012 attacks in Benghazi.
“What happened was wrong,” he told CNN.
“I’m scared. I’m nervous. I know that this is, you know, I’m going up against powerful people in Washington,” he added. “But at the end of the day I need to live with myself. I told my wife, I will view myself as a coward if I don’t do the right thing here.”
This post has been updated.