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Politics & Policy

An Ex-Benghazi Committee Staffer Says Exactly What Hillary Needed (UPDATED)

The Clintons are either exceptionally lucky or exceptionally good at out-maneuvering Congressional foes. What are the odds that a Benghazi committee staffer would have an intractable problem with his bosses, and that upon his dismissal, he would turn around and tell the media exactly what the Clinton campaign would want them to hear?

Maj. Bradley Podliska, an intelligence officer in the Air Force Reserve who describes himself as a conservative Republican, told CNN that the committee trained its sights almost exclusively on Clinton after the revelation last March that she used a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state. That new focus flipped a broad-based probe of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, into what Podliska described as “a partisan investigation.”

Between this and Kevin McCarthy, the Benghazi committee is having a bad couple of weeks.

Podliska, who was fired after nearly 10 months as an investigator for the Republican majority, is now preparing to file a lawsuit against the select committee next month, alleging that he lost his job in part because he resisted pressure to focus his investigative efforts solely on the State Department and Clinton’s role surrounding the Benghazi attack. He also alleges he was fired because he took leave from the committee to fulfill his military service obligations, which would be an unlawful firing.

Podliska alleges that the committee’s staff director told him he was fired for three reasons: using work email to send a social invitation to colleagues, assigning an “unauthorized project” to an intern, and allegedly putting classified information on an unclassified system. Podliska, an intelligence officer who was hired for his expertise with the intelligence community, strongly denies the latter. He also disputes the legitimacy of the other two reasons cited to him by the committee, in particular assigning any “unauthorized projects” to interns.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, the chairman of the Select Committee on Benghazi, issued an extensive statement contending that Podliska was lying through his teeth and that he was terminated for cause:

“One month ago, this staffer had a chance to bare his soul, and raise his claim this Committee was focused on Secretary Clinton in a legal document, not an interview, and he did not do it. Nor did he mention Secretary Clinton at any time during his counseling for deficient performance, when he was terminated, or via his first lawyer who withdrew from representing him. In fact, throughout the pendency of an ongoing legal mediation, which is set to conclude October 13, this staffer has not mentioned Secretary Clinton. But as this process prepares to wrap, 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. 

“To wit, 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. He also has not produced documentary proof that in the time before his termination he was directed to focus on Clinton.  The record makes it clear not only did he mishandle classified information, he himself was focused on Clinton improperly and was instructed to stop, and that issues with his conduct were noted on the record as far back as April.

“Because I do not know him, and cannot recall ever speaking to him, I can say for certain he was never instructed by me to focus on Clinton, nor would he be a credible person to speak on my behalf. I am equally confident his supervisor, General Chipman, did not direct him to focus on Clinton.

In fact, when this staffer requested interns do a project that focused on Clinton and the National Security Council, he was informed by the Committee’s deputy staff director his project was ‘not approved.’ This individual was hired as a former intelligence staffer to focus on intelligence, not the politics of White House talking points.

“On September 11th, in his mediation filing, this staffer specifically claimed his reserve status as a basis for his termination. I would note first this staffer’s reserve duty was approved both times it was requested.

“In all of the interviews conducted since news broke of Secretary Clinton’s email arrangement, exactly half of one interview focused on Clinton’s unusual email arrangement. The Benghazi Committee has now interviewed 44 new witnesses, including 7 eyewitnesses to the attacks never before interviewed, and recovered more than 50,000 pages of new documents. Approximately 5 percent of those are Secretary Clinton’s self-selected email records. I cannot say it any plainer than stating the facts, the Benghazi Committee is not focused on Secretary Clinton, and to the extent we have given any attention to Clinton, it is because she was Secretary of State at all relevant times covered by this Committee’s jurisdiction.   

“Had CNN contacted the Committee regarding its interview with this staffer before it rushed to air his sensationalistic and fabulist claims, it could have fully questioned him about his unsubstantiated claims. But that is the difference between journalism as practiced by CNN, and the fact-centric investigation being conducted by this Committee.

“This Committee always has been, and will be, focused on the four brave Americans we lost in Benghazi and providing the final, definitive accounting of the Benghazi terrorist attacks for the American people.”

Between the McCarthy comment and the Podliska allegations, Hillary Clinton probably has enough cover to dismiss the committee as a partisan witch hunt. The question is, will she still testify before the committee October 22?

Or will she pull a version of the Lois Lerner approach, arrive, issue a statement denouncing the committee as a partisan witch hunt – picture the climactic scene of any Aaron Sorkin drama — and then leave without taking any questions?

UPDATE: For what it’s worth, CNN’s Jake Tapper strenuously objects to the tone of this Corner post, contending that CNN did in fact give Gowdy ample time to respond to Podliska’s allegations, and he simply didn’t do so:

“We categorically deny Benghazi Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy’s statement about CNN,” a network spokesperson said. “We reached out to the committee for a response prior to publishing or broadcasting, which the committee provided. That response was included in our reporting. In addition, Chairman Gowdy was invited to discuss this on CNN and declined. Chairman Gowdy is wrong.”

Tapper says the CNN’s first article included the committee’s denial, and that they didn’t interview Podliska on-air until the next day.

Tapper also points out that Podliska does not fit the description of a Clinton loyalist, pointing to his past work for Rep. Jim Jordan and past internship at the Media Research Center. The argument is that while the headline on CNN’s site – Ex-staffer: Benghazi committee pursuing ‘partisan investigation’ targeting Hillary Clinton — may be what Hillary Clinton would want to hear, the rest of Podliska’s remarks are the opposite:

He insisted that his claim is not politically motivated, explaining that he has long been a conservative Republican — “more on the libertarian side” — and plans to vote for the GOP nominee in 2016.

“I am going to vote for the Republican nominee in 2016. I do not support Hillary Clinton for president,” he said.



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