Democrats have new ammunition in their attacks against the GOP's Benghazi probe after a former investigator launched charges that Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonFormer State Department adviser announces run for Maryland governor Poll: Nearly 4 in 10 believe Trump campaign helped Russia meddle in election Dems crowd primaries to challenge GOP reps MORE was the panel's primary target.
Bradley Podliska, an Air Force Reserve major and a former staffer on the House Select Committee on Benghazi, claims he was fired from the panel for promoting a broad, objective investigation into the deadly 2012 attack, according to multiple Saturday reports.
He says Republicans on the panel, by contrast, wanted to shift the focus chiefly onto Clinton after reports emerged revealing she'd used a personal email account in her role as secretary of State — allegations the committee vigorously disputes.
"It’s been clear that Secretary Clinton has been the true target of this investigation, and the Republican whistleblower who has come forward only provides further evidence of what has been long evident," Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), senior Democrat on the Intelligence Committee and a member of the Benghazi panel, said Saturday in a statement. "It’s time to shut down the Benghazi Select Committee."
Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, said Podliska was "handpicked" by Benghazi Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), and if his allegations are true, the panel must be shuttered.
"Even though we all knew from the start that Gowdy and the Republicans created the Benghazi Committee to pursue a political witch-hunt, we had to let them prove it to the American people themselves," he said in a statement. "There should no longer be any doubt as to why the committee was created."
Podliska, a self-described conservative Republican, claims he was fired in retaliation for opposing what he described as a shift of committee resources to focus primarily on Clinton following the email revelations, according to the reports.
He's planning to sue the panel over his firing, seeking lost pay and the return of his job.
"I knew that we needed to get to the truth to the victims' families. And the victims' families, they deserve the truth — whether or not Hillary Clinton was involved, whether or not other individuals were involved," Podliska told CNN in an interview to air Sunday on the network's "State of the Union" program. "The victims' families are not going to get the truth and that's the most unfortunate thing about this."
The committee is strongly rejecting those claims, issuing a lengthy statement Saturday arguing that Podliska "was terminated for cause."
The committee says it was Podliska, himself, who pushed "to develop and direct Committee resources to a PowerPoint 'hit piece' on members of the Obama Administration — including Secretary Clinton — that bore no relationship whatsoever to the Committee’s current investigative tone, focus or investigative plan."
"Thus, 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," the committee said.
The dispute comes amid growing scrutiny surrounding the goals and objectivity of the special Benghazi committee, which was formed last year to investigate the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which left U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) last month fired up the critics when he suggested the Republicans' goal in creating panel was, at least in part, to undermine Clinton's presidential ambitions.
“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee. A select committee," McCarthy told Sean Hannity of Fox News. "What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known that any of that had happened had we not fought to make that happen.”
Republicans have fought back against the suggestion that the committee was formed with Clinton in its sights. Gowdy said McCarthy simply "screwed up."
--This report was last updated on Oct. 11 at 9:48 a.m.