The leader of the Republican-led special Benghazi committee tried Sunday to discredit a former staffer’s claim that he was fired for not joining in a partisan-driven effort to tarnish Hillary Clinton, saying he never even spoke to the ex-staffer.
South Carolina GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy, chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, said he never met with the staffer, investigator and Air Force Reserves officer Bradley F. Podliska, and that Podliska was, in fact, warned about his own efforts to discredit Clinton, who was secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.
“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,” Gowdy said.
He also said Podliska has never mentioned Clinton -- from when he was counseled about his “deficient performance” to when he was fired and through the entire legal mediation process.
Furthermore, Gowdy said, Podliska has “run to the press with his new salacious allegations” after failing to get money from the committee.
The mediation process is scheduled to conclude Tuesday.
Podliska’s complaint was reported first on Saturday by The New York Times.
The committee was formed last year to investigate the Sept. 11, 2012, terror attacks on a U.S. outpost in Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans were killed.
However, Democrats argue the committee was really formed to attack the Democratic presidential front-runner.
Party leaders got a foothold on efforts to dismantle the committee a few weeks ago when House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy suggested that Clinton’s poll numbers have dropped as the committee continues to investigate her role in the tragedy and her related use of a private server and emails to conduct official State Department business.
And they appear to be taking advantage of Podliska’s allegations and purported lawsuit to further their efforts.
“These are extremely serious whistle-blower charges,” said Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, the committee’s top Democrat. “Republicans have been abusing millions of taxpayer dollars for the illegitimate purpose of damaging Hillary Clinton’s bid for president.”
Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans -- Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods -- were killed in the 2012 attacks.
Gowdy said Podliska mishandled classified information and was told as far back as April that he was “improperly” focused on Clinton and told to stop.
He also said the committee denied Podliska’s request to use interns for a project focused on Clinton and the National Security Council, saying Podliska was hired to focus on intelligence, “not the politics of White House talking points.”
Gowdy is also refuting Podliska’s claims that committee leaders retaliated against him for taking leave to go on active duty, which if true would be a violation of federal law.
He also argued that the committee has interviewed 44 new witnesses and recovered more than 50,000 pages of new documents, while “only half of one interview” has focused on Clinton’s server-email arrangement since news about it broke this spring.
“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,” Gowdy said.