Repub­li­can staffer fired from House panel on Beng­hazi at­tacks

The Washington Post Sunday - - POLITICS & THE NATION - BY TOM HAM­BURGER AND CAROL D. LEONNIG tom.ham­burger@wash­post.com carol.leonnig@wash­post.com

A Repub­li­can staffer from the House Se­lect Com­mit­tee on Beng­hazi has been fired af­ter he says he de­vel­oped con­cerns about the politi­cized na­ture of the panel’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The crit­i­cism from an ex­pe­ri­enced Repub­li­can in­tel­li­gence in­ves­ti­ga­tor comes amid grow­ing Demo­cratic Party com­plaints that the spe­cial com­mit­tee was on a mis­sion to un­der­mine for­mer sec­re­tary of state Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton and her bid for the pres­i­dency.

A spokesman for thecom­mit­tee de­nied the al­le­ga­tions from the for­mer staffer, Bradley Podliska, a ma­jor in the Air Force Re­serve who is­sued a state­ment through his at­tor­neys Satur­day af­ter­noon.

“My non-par­ti­san in­ves­tiga­tive work con­flicted with the in­ter­ests of the Repub­li­can lead­er­ship, who fo­cused their in­ves­ti­ga­tion pri­mar­ily on Sec­re­tary Clin­ton and her aides,” Podliska said, es­pe­cially af­ter re­ports sur­faced in March that Clin­ton has used a pri­vate e-mail server. “The fam­i­lies of the Amer­i­cans who died in the Beng­hazi at­tacks de­serve to find out the truth about Beng­hazi, but to do that a thor­ough, non-par­ti­san in­ves­ti­ga­tion must be con­ducted of all agen­cies and of­fi­cials in­volved in Beng­hazi,” the state­ment said.

In a news re­lease Satur­day, the com­mit­tee called Podliska’s claims “trans­par­ently false,” stat­ing that he “was ter­mi­nated for cause.” The writ­ten state­ment, at­trib­uted to a com­mit­tee spokesman, did not men­tion Podliska by name but said the for­mer em­ployee had shown poor judg­ment.

“The em­ployee ac­tu­ally was ter­mi­nated, in part, be­cause he him­self man­i­fested im­proper par­tial­ity and an­i­mus in his in­ves­tiga­tive work’’ against the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, in­clud­ing Clin­ton, the state­ment said.

The new de­vel­op­ments come at a dif­fi­cult time for com­mit­tee Repub­li­cans, who plan to ques­tion Clin­ton on Oct. 22 de­spite grow­ing re­quests to shut down the in­quiry.

The rank­ing Demo­crat on the Beng­hazi panel, Rep. Eli­jah E. Cum­mings (Md.), said Satur­day evening that Podliska’s al­le­ga­tions pro­vide more proof of se­ri­ous bias by the com­mit­tee’s ma­jor­ity.

“Repub­li­cans have been abus­ing mil­lions of tax­payer dol­lars for the il­le­git­i­mate pur­pose of dam­ag­ing Hil­lary Clin­ton’s bid for pres­i­dent,” Cum­mings said, point­ing out that the latest com­plaints come from “one of Chair­man [ Trey] Gowdy’s own hand­picked in­ves­ti­ga­tors.”

The rank­ing Demo­crat on the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), called for an end to the com­mit­tee on Satur­day.

“Only by end­ing this ex­pen­sive and politi­cized in­ves­ti­ga­tion can we be­gin to undo the dam­age al­ready done through this un­prece­dented use of Congress’s power for nakedly po­lit­i­cal pur­poses.”

Gowdy (R-S.C.) has de­fended the panel’s work, in­sist­ing that he has found im­por­tant new doc­u­ments to be re­leased this week in­volv­ing e-mails from Clin­ton’s long­time ad­viser, Sid­ney Blu­men­thal, who of­fered in­tel­li­gence ad­vice on Libya.

Podliska’s at­tor­neys, Peter Romer-Fried­man and Joe Napil-to­nia, said they ex­pect to file a law­suit for wrong­ful ter­mi­na­tion soon that will make the case that Podliska was fired in part be­cause he par­tic­i­pated in re­quired Na­tional Guard ex­er­cises. Napilto-nia said his client was ter­mi­nated af­ter no­ti­fy­ing the com­mit­tee of his ac­tive-duty mil­i­tary obli­ga­tions. Re­tal­i­a­tion for an em­ployee tak­ing mil­i­tary leave would vi­o­late fed­eral law pro­tect­ing the rights of uni­formed mil­i­tary per­son­nel, the lawyers said.

They say that Repub­li­can com­mit­tee staff mem­bers ques­tioned Podliska’s mil­i­tary obli­ga­tions along with their client’s pref­er­ence for a non­par­ti­san in­quiry into the events in Libya.

Podliska, cur­rently sta­tioned in Ger­many, could not be reached for com­ment. His crit­i­cism was first re­ported Satur­day af­ter­noon by the New York Times.

Brian Fal­lon, a spokesman for Clin­ton’s cam­paign, called the for­mer em­ployee’s claims “ex­plo­sive al­le­ga­tions” that “may pro­vide the most de­fin­i­tive proof to date that this tax­payer-funded in­ves­ti­ga­tion has been a par­ti­san sham from the start.”

In re­ject­ing Podliska’s claims ear­lier, the com­mit­tee said Podliska had re­ceived “re­peated coun­sel­ing for per­for­mance and lack of judg­ment.” The state­ment said he had shown an ea­ger­ness to push claims against the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion af­ter join­ing the panel in the fall of 2014.

“One rea­son for which the em­ployee was ter­mi­nated was his re­peated ef­forts, of his own vo­li­tion, to de­velop and di­rect Com­mit­tee re­sources to a Pow­er­Point ‘ hit piece’ on mem­bers of the Obama Ad­min­is­tra­tion — in­clud­ing Sec­re­tary Clin­ton,” the com­mit­tee’s state­ment said. “Thus, di­rectly con­trary to his brand new as­ser­tion.”

Fur­ther, the state­ment said that “the for­mer em­ployee has vi­o­lated this con­fi­den­tial­ity re­quire­ment in a public way” and that he never pre­vi­ously made claims of bias.

Napil­to­nia said the com­mit­tee’s al­le­ga­tions of Podliska’s poor job per­for­mance are “com­pletely false.”

“I would note that Mr. Podliska was never rep­ri­manded prior to his giv­ing no­tice thathe was go­ing on mil­i­tary leave in March,” Napil­to­nia said Satur­day af­ter re­view­ing the com­mit­tee’s state­ment. Podliska spent more than a decade as an in­tel­li­gence an­a­lyst with a de­fense agency. “He is a proud con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­can,” said Napil­to­nia, one who al­ways hoped the com­mit­tee would in­ves­ti­gate all agen­cies and in­di­vid­u­als in­volved in the Beng­hazi tragedy.

From the out­set, Repub­li­can mem­bers of the House have re­buffed com­plaints about bias on the Beng­hazi panel, in­sist­ing that the com­mit­tee was ex­am­in­ing the vi­o­lence in Libya that led to the death ofU.S. Am­bas­sador J. Christo­pher Stevens and three other Amer­i­cans on Sept. 11, 2012. In­creas­ingly, Democrats ex­pressed doubt about the com­mit­tee’s work and the in­ten­tions of Gowdy.

The con­tro­versy deep­ened Tues­day when House Ma­jor­ity Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) made com­ments that ap­peared to re­in­force crit­i­cism that the com­mit­tee’s pri­mary tar­get was Clin­ton. The GOP ma­jor­ity leader, whoat the time was a can­di­date to suc­ceed John A. Boehner (Ohio) as speaker, sug­gested in a Fox News in­ter­view that the com­mit­tee had suc­ceeded be­cause Clin­ton’s poll num­bers had plum­meted.

Anne Gearan con­trib­uted to this re­port.

“My non-par­ti­san in­ves­tiga­tive work con­flicted with the in­ter­ests of the Repub­li­can lead­er­ship, who fo­cused their in­ves­ti­ga­tion pri­mar­ily on Sec­re­tary Clin­ton and her aides.” Bradley Podliska, for­mer staffer

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