Ex-staffer suing House Benghazi committee drops Clinton bias charge

Story highlights

  • The investigator suing the House Benghazi committee seems to be no longer arguing that the group forced him to center his probe on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
  • In a 29-page amended court filing last month, former Benghazi investigator Bradley Podliska makes no mention of Clinton, who was originally a central player in the suit.

Washington (CNN)A former congressional staffer who accused the House Select Committee on Benghazi of running a politically biased investigation targeting Hillary Clinton has dropped that claim from his wrongful termination lawsuit.

Bradley Podliska made the claim in several interviews last October that he was fired from the committee led by South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy after taking leave to fulfill his military service obligations and because he did not go along with the panel's focus on the former secretary of state surrounding the events of Sept. 11, 2012, when four Americans were killed in Benghazi, Libya.
    Clinton allies and Democrats embraced Podliska's charges in the lead-up to her high-stakes hearing before the committee as evidence that the investigation into the Benghazi attack was politically motivated and not a fact-finding mission.
    He sued the committee in November, but in a 29-page amended court filing last month, all references to Clinton have been removed.
    Peter Romer-Friedman, one of Podliska's attorneys, said the change does not mean the bias claim is untrue. "The changes to the factual allegations of the complaint does not mean that Major Podliska is recanting his criticisms of the committee or the focus of its investigation," Romer-Friedman said.
    The House Benghazi Committee declined to comment.
    Politico first reported on the change.
    The November 23 filing cited Clinton's name and the direction of the committee's investigation several times.
    "It was clear to Plaintiff that he was being singled out because of his military service and because he was unwilling to go along with the hyper-focus on the State Department and Secretary Clinton based upon the fact that his comprehensive, thorough, and objective investigation was pointing at other agencies and individuals and not solely the State Department and Secretary Clinton," the filing read.
    And the bias charge has also been a key part of the public relations campaign waged by Podliska.
    "I was fired for going on military service and I was fired for trying to conduct an objective, non-partisan, thorough investigation," Podliska told CNN's Jake Tapper in October. "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."
    The committee at the time flatly denied the claims made by Podliska, and Gowdy called his committee's work "the final, definitive accounting" of what happened during the terrorist attacks.
    While the bias claim was featured in the November complaint, it was not one of the causes of action, and removing it could help Podliska fight off a motion from the committee to dismiss the case.
    Last month, the committee urged Judge Randolph D. Moss to dismiss the case, denying that the panel "improperly focused on Secretary Clinton" and saying that that even if that were true Podliska would have essentially admitted he didn't cooperate with his supervisors. Podliska removed the bias language shortly thereafter.
    "A plaintiff challenging the termination of his employment does not typically admit in his pleadings that he refused to comply with his employer's directives," the committee wrote. "Moreover, Plaintiff goes on to allege that this conduct was part of the reason he was treated adversely by the Select Committee."
    The panel explicitly rejected the bias claim.
    "(F)for purposes of this Motion only, the Select Committee is required to assume the truth of Plaintiff's allegations regarding the supposed "agency-centric" focus of the Select Committee's investigation," the panel wrote. "If this Motion is denied, however, and if this case is otherwise permitted to proceed, Defendant will demonstrate the falsity of these allegations. In short, the Select Committee's investigation is not now, and never has been, agency-centric and/or improperly focused on Secretary Clinton and the State Department."