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Former Benghazi panel staffer files suit against Chairman Gowdy

Former Benghazi panel staffer files suit against Chairman Gowdy
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A former Republican staffer on the House Select Committee on Benghazi is suing the panel and Chairman Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyThe Hunter Biden problem won't go away Sunday shows preview: Joe Biden wins the 2020 election Sunday shows preview: Election integrity dominates as Nov. 3 nears MORE (R-S.C.) for what he claims is wrongful termination and defamation of character.

The lawsuit from Bradley Podliska follows his claim earlier this year that the GOP-led committee is inappropriately focused on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a charge that Democrats used to attack the panel’s credibility in the days before her testimony last month.

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In his new suit, which was filed on Monday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Podliska accuses Gowdy of "making false and defamatory statements" that violated his "constitutional liberty interests.”

The committee “unlawfully fired” Podliska this summer, he alleges, after “months of increasing hostility towards Podliska because he left work to fulfill his military obligations as a reservist.”

He was “being singled out” because of his military service and “because he was unwilling to along with the hyper-focus on the State Department and Secretary Clinton,” Podliska claimed in his suit.

Allegations of such a “serious crime” have “ended the careers of many professionals in national security-related industries,” Podliska claimed.

Once Podliska declared that he was planning to file suit for discrimination, Gowdy and members of the Benghazi  committee made “numerous false allegations” to national news outlets, he claimed, pointing to a statement issued by his office as well as an NBC interview.

“Chairman Gowdy, personally and through his agents, tied these defamatory statements to Podliska’s firing to damage Podliska’s reputation and his ability to seek or secure employment in his chosen field, depriving Podliska of his rights under the Constitution of the United States,” the lawsuit alleges.

Details of the lawsuit were first reported by MSNBC.

Gowdy and his fellow Republicans were quick to dismiss Podliska when his complaints first emerged in October.

At the time, committee Republicans said that Podliska was appropriately fired from the panel after extended efforts to create a “hit piece” on Clinton and other members of the Obama administration “that bore no relationship whatsoever to the committee’s current investigative tone, focus or investigative plan.”

On Monday, committee spokesman Jamal Ware said that panel will respond to Podliska’s allegations “in due course and in the appropriate forum.”

“We disagree strongly with those claims, which are meritless and which improperly strike at the heart of the committee’s legislative functions,” Ware said in a statement. “Further, we reiterate that the committee did not and does not discriminate or retaliate based on military service, military status or any other unlawful factor.”

“And we are confident that once all the facts are known — should this case be permitted to proceed — we will be fully exonerated.”

The Benghazi committee is tasked with investigating the circumstances around the 2012 terror attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, which left four Americans dead including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

Podliska, an Air Force Reserve major, is attempting to file suit under a law that grants members of the military an avenue to protect themselves against employee discrimination.

He is not seeking money, he claimed, but instead asking the court to declare that Gowdy’s narrative was false and barring him from repeating it.

Monday’s filing is the latest shot in a protracted battle over the legitimacy of the Benghazi Committee, which Democrats have accused of being a partisan witch hunt for more than a year.

Their criticisms seemed to be bolstered by claims that the panel was politically motivated from Podliska as well as remarks from Reps. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.). Fury surrounding McCarthy’s comments that the probe had hurt 2016 presidential candidate Clinton politically contributed to his decision not to run for speaker of the House following John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) retirement.

The dueling narratives came to a head later in October, when Clinton emerged largely unscathed from a marathon 11-hour public hearing in the committee.

- This story was updated at 4:15 p.m.

Bradley Podliska by Julian Hattem