Democrats hardest hit
The House’s Select Committee on Benghazi was created with bipartisan support to investigate the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi. Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State at the time. A former committee staffer alleged he was wrongfully terminated for refusing, “to conduct a partisan probe of the former secretary of state,” reports Politico.
Now, Bradley Podliska is changing his tune.
Last October, an ex-GOP Benghazi Committee staffer filed a lawsuit against the panel, claiming he was wrongly fired for refusing to center his investigation on Hillary Clinton — an accusation Clinton’s defenders held up as proof that the panel had devolved into a political witch hunt.
But five months later, Bradley Podliska’s lawsuit has quietly dropped all mention of Clinton.
Attorneys for the Air Force Reserve major filed an amendment to his original claim in late February, striking the legal clauses that included his accusation that the panel’s investigation was increasingly focused on Clinton — and that he was dismissed for refusing to go along.
It’s a significant change from his original assertion. Podliska had burst onto the scene last fall, arguing he was directed to pursue Clinton and not the security failures at the U.S. Benghazi compound — comments that stoked Democratic ire against the panel as he made a whirlwind tour of cable news networks.
Those claims had come at the worst possible time for the panel: just days before Clinton was set to testify before the committee and in the midst of a drumbeat of attacks on their credibility by Clinton allies. Democrats and pro-Clinton groups like Correct the Record trumpeted Podliska’s accusations for weeks, arguing he corroborated their theories that the panel was only intended to hurt the 2016 Democratic front-runner.
Podliska’s lawyers, reached by phone on Tuesday, did not tell POLITICO why the claims had been removed. But one of them, Peter Romer-Friedman, offered this statement: “We are now in active litigation, and like the Committee we will not be commenting on pending motions. We look forward to the truth coming out in a court of law.”
Since he filed the complaint in October, Podliska has burned through a handful of attorneys who, for unknown and unreported reasons, have chosen to discontinue their working relationship with him.
Podliska’s claims were evident in the Hillary Clinton’s public committee hearing. Committee Democrats used their time to wax on about the “witch hunt” and alleged partisan tactics employed to destroy the Democratic party’s presidential front-runner.
In February, House lawyers filed a motion to dismiss Podliska’s complaint:
To the extent this Motion is brought under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the Court must generally accept the factual allegations of the Complaint as true, even though many of those allegations are not rooted in reality. Nevertheless, the Select Committee emphatically denies a number of Plaintiff s allegations, including, but not limited to, his claims that the Select Committee acted with unlawful animus in its employment decisions and that its investigation has and/or had an improper agency-centric focus on the State Department and/or former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. … If this Motion is denied, however, and if this case is otherwise permitted to proceed, Defendant will demonstrate the falsity of these allegations. In short, the Select Committee s investigation is not now, and never has been, agency-centric and/or improperly focused on Secretary Clinton and the State Department.
House lawyers representing the panel on Friday filed a motion to dismiss Bradley Podliska’s case because the speech and debate clause widely protects members of Congress and their staff from being sued for actions they undertake for official duties, including their interactions with Podliska. They also argued that Podliska had acknowledged that he and his Benghazi panel supervisors often clashed — undercutting any claims of discrimination because such disputes between a staffer and employer would be cause for termination, they said.
“Plaintiff and his supervisors simply did not see eye to eye on the direction of the Select Committee’s investigation or plaintiff’s role in setting that direction,” the filing says. “These same allegations however, reveal why plaintiff cannot prevail on his claims … in which he alleges discrimination and retaliation.”
Podliska, an Air Force reservist, alleges the panel discriminated and retaliated against him because he took military duty leave to serve several weeks overseas — and because he would not tailor his investigation to center on Hillary Clinton. The committee disputes both accounts, arguing a panel run by ex-military members would not punish someone for serving, and that Podliska himself had partisan tendencies.
Though Democrats have claimed the Select Committee investigation was meant to sideline Clinton, Committee Chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy, insists the investigation is not about Clinton, but is all-inclusive:
— Trey Gowdy (@TGowdySC) March 14, 2016
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