Rep. Trey Gowdy, chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, said Sunday that a former staffer accusing the panel of bias against Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton never mentioned her before being fired for “deficient performance,” including mishandling classified information.
Ex-staffer Bradley Podliska, a major in the Air Force Reserve, has accused the GOP-led committee of waging a politically motivated probe to discredit Mrs. Clinton, who served as secretary of state during the 2012 terrorist attacks on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead.
Shortly after Mr. Podliska appeared in an interview Sunday with CNN’s “State of the Union,” Mr. Gowdy released a statement denying what he described as “sensationalist and fabulist claims,” adding that Mr. Podliska has “demanded money” from the committee.
“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,” said Mr. Gowdy, South Carolina Republican. “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,” Mr. Gowdy said in the statement. “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.”
The furor over the bias allegation comes after House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, credited the committee with contributing to Mrs. Clinton’s declining poll numbers in her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, prompting Democrats to accuse the panel of partisan motivations.
“There’s wrongdoing here, and I think it needs to stop,” Mr. Podliska said Sunday.
“Hillary Clinton has a lot of explaining to do,” Mr. Podliska said on CNN. “We, however, did not need to shift resources to hyper-focus on Hillary Clinton. We didn’t need to de-emphasize and in some cases drop the investigation on different agencies, different organizations and different individuals.”
Mr. Gowdy countered that Mr. Podliska never mentioned Mrs. Clinton during the review process leading to his termination from the committee.
“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,” Mr. Gowdy said.
“He also has not produced documentary proof that in the time before his termination he was directed to focus on Clinton,” the committee chairman said. “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.”
Mr. Podliska, who was fired in June after 10 months on the committee, has denied mishandling classified information.
He also described himself Sunday as a Republican, saying “I am going to vote for the Republican nominee in 2016. I do not support Hillary Clinton for president.”
Mr. Gowdy’s statement said it was Mr. Podliska who displayed bias during his work with the committee.
“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,’” the statement said. “This individual was hired as a former intelligence staffer to focus on intelligence, not the politics of White House talking points.”
In a statement, Mr. Podliska’s attorneys said he plans to file a federal complaint against the committee in November.