Ex-staffer's lawyers: Benghazi Chairman Trey Gowdy breached confidentiality

Story highlights

  • A former Benghazi committee staffer says the committee's chairman violated confidentiality of a mediation process
  • The staffer has accused the committee of a partisan investigation of Hillary Clinton
  • The committee denies the accusation

Washingon (CNN)The attorneys for a former investigator with the House Select Committee on Benghazi on Monday issued a cease-and-desist letter alleging that Republican Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy violated confidentiality terms of a mediation between the parties.

Bradley Podliska, the former investigator who was fired this summer, this weekend publicly accused the committee of pursuing a "partisan investigation" targeting Hillary Clinton and is planning to file a lawsuit next month alleging he lost his job because he resisted pressure to conduct a biased investigation and because of his absences from the committee to complete his Air Force reserve duty.
Podliska's attorneys alleged in the letter they shared with CNN that Gowdy and his staff "disclosed materials and information from the mediation" to the media and that Gowdy in a statement to the media described "private settlement discussions between the parties." Discussions that are part of the mandatory 30-day mediation between Podliska and the committee are confidential under the Congressional Accountability Act.
    The Benghazi committee's spokesman did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
    When asked about the mediation in his interview with CNN, Podlaski demurred: "I can't comment on the mediation process, unfortunately."
    Gowdy in a statement on Sunday said that Podliska had "demanded money from the Committee," that "the Committee has refused to pay him" and that Podliska never mentioned Hillary Clinton's name in the course of the mediation -- among some of the claims Podliska's lawyer Peter Romer-Friedman told CNN he believes violate the confidentiality of the mediation.
    Podliska has accused the committee of leading a "hyper-focused" investigation targeting Clinton and firing him because of his absences from committee work due to his Air Force obligations. The committee has rejected all of those allegations.
    Now, the committee is swatting away yet another of Podliska's allegations: that the staff director for the Republican-led committee allegedly referred to a Republican member on the committee as one of Congress's "right wing nut jobs."
    Podliska told CNN that he was also pressured to stop the work on the "post-attack phase" of the investigation he was conducting with Rep. Jim Jordan, a conservative Republican from Ohio.
    "They said, 'We know that you have your post-attack piece, only right-wing nut jobs care about that.' And what they were referring to is they were referring to Rep. Jim Jordan," Podliska told CNN in an exclusive TV interview.
    Podliska is alleging the "right-wing nut jobs" comment came from the Benghazi committee's Republican staff director Phil Kiko, according to a draft of a lawsuit Podliska is set to file against the committee next month. A spokesman for Jordan did not respond to requests for comment.
    The committee called the allegation "yet another false, unsubstantiated claim" in a statement to CNN and suggested the incidents Podliska was referring to had to do with a PowerPoint presentation that a committee spokesperson previously called a "hit piece on members of the Obama administration -- including Secretary Clinton."
    "He was instructed not to pursue his PowerPoint presentation *not* because the Committee has no interest in his issues, but because he wanted to create a sensational and conclusory presentation that was not related to the Committee's investigative plan and was premature given that factual investigation on these issues was developing then and is still ongoing," the committee's statement said. "The record is clear on this. Any discussion with Mr. Podliska on this was because he was being told not to do it and because he himself was taking an inappropriate, conclusory, and partisan approach to his work."
    One of Podliska's attorneys, Peter Romer-Friedman, strongly repudiated accusations that Podliska's own work showed bias and said the committee was referring to a video an intern working with Podliska created "of her own volition" that was not included in the PowerPoint and which Podliska told the intern was "inappropriate." Romer-Friedman said the PowerPoint simply showed a timeline of the events following the Benghazi attacks and was in no way a "hit piece."
    Podliska also alleged that the Republican-led committee began focusing on Clinton and the State Department almost exclusively after news emerged in March that Clinton exclusively used a private email server to conduct official business.
    A committee spokesperson "vigorously" denied those claims in a statement to CNN on Saturday.
    But Podliska is standing by his story, and he said that as a result of the committee's "hyper-focus" on Clinton, the families of the four Americans who were killed in Benghazi on September 11, 2012 "are not going to get the truth.
    "And that's the most unfortunate thing about this," he told CNN. "And I know this because the nine months of research I had done is now lost. I have no idea where it is. And I know that I could give those victims' families an explanation, a pretty thorough explanation of why they were told that this attack was due to a video."
    The committee claims it also fired Podliska in part because he mishandled classified information, which Podliska has called "a complete and total fabrication."
    "I was accused of a security violation along with several other people," said Podliska, who previously worked at a federal defense agency for 17 years. "When I asked him, 'Hey, what here is classified, what classification manual did you use?' he said, 'I didn't use a classification manual.' I said, 'Well, honestly? Like you could have gotten that information from Wikipedia that I put in there. How is this classified?' And he -- he backed down. He said, 'Look, it's not classified, it's just sensitive information.' And I left it at that. And the next thing I know I was being charged with it for a security violation."
    Podliska said the other staffers who were also accused of mishandling classified information were not fired.