It was big news last October when an investigator with the Benghazi committee named Bradley Podliska claimed he had been fired after taking issue with the committee’s partisan focus on Hillary Clinton. Democrats seized on the allegation as proof that the House committee was nothing more than a partisan witch hunt. Today, Politico reports that Podliska’s lawyers have quietly dropped everything about Hillary Clinton from his lawsuit for wrongful termination:
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.
One of Podliska’s lawyers, reached by phone on Tuesday, did not tell POLITICO why the claims had been removed.
There were actually two claims made initially by Podliska for why he was fired. The first was that he objected to the hyper-partisan focus on Hillary Clinton. The second was that he was being punished for taking leave to serve as an Air Force reservist. You can probably guess which claim made news. Here’s Podliska telling his story to Jake Tapper on CNN last October:
At the time, Chairman Trey Gowdy responded to the accusations made by Podliska saying he was fired, in part, for his own desire to focus on Benghazi talking points rather than what he was hired to do. The Chairman released a statement which also claimed Podliska had asked the committee for settlement money. From CBS News:
“Directly contrary to his brand new assertion, the employee actually was terminated, in part, because he himself manifested improper partiality and animus in his investigative work,” a panel spokesperson said.
Gowdy backed up the committee’s response, and added that Podliska had even asked interns help with a project that focused on Clinton and the National Security Council. The committee, according to Gowdy, told Podliska 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,” Gowdy said. Furthermore, the chair added, Podliska had not mentioned any complaint regarding Clinton while working for the committee.
“Throughout the pendency of an ongoing legal mediation, which is set to conclude October 13, this staffer has not mentioned Secretary Clinton,” he said. “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.”
It’s worth noting that there is a strategic motive for Podliska’s lawyers dropping the claims about Clinton now. Deliberations made by the Benghazi committee are protected by the speech and debate clause which gives those involved complete immunity from lawsuits. By dropping the claims about Hillary now, Podliska’s attorneys avoid giving a judge a clear reason to toss out his entire lawsuit (he is left with the claim that he was fired for taking leave to serve the Air Force).
The real question is why Podliska and his attorneys included any of this in the lawsuit in the first place. The speech and debate clause hasn’t changed since last October. Podliska’s lawyers certainly knew then, as they clearly do now, that this was a non-starter in court. Whatever their reasoning, the accusations were a boon to Hillary Clinton and a serious blow to the Benghazi committee just a few days before Clinton’s highly publicized testimony.