This allegation caused trouble for the committee ahead of Clinton’s Oct. 22 public testimony on Benghazi. Panel Republicans were already facing charges from Democrats that the probe is aimed at hurting Clinton’s campaign and Podiska’s accusation added to these tensions.
The panel denied Podliska’s claims, saying he was fired because he mishandled classified information. Podliska said in September that he planned to sue the committee, which fired him in June.
Podliska filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, alleging the committee violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), the Congressional Accountability Act and his rights under the Constitution.
“In June 2015, Podliska was unlawfully fired by the Benghazi Committee because he sought to exercise his rights under USERRA,” the lawsuit stated. “This followed months of increasing hostility toward Podliska because he left work to fulfill his military obligations as a reservist. As soon as Podliska announced that he intended to file a civil suit … Chairman Gowdy and his Benghazi Committee staffers responded by intentionally defaming Podliska, making numerous false allegations to multiple national news outlets.”
The lawsuit, which calls for a jury trial, could reinvigorate the controversy that has surrounded the panel for months. Democrats have accused Gowdy of leading a probe focused on Clinton in an attempt to harm her 2016 presidential campaign and some Republicans have publicly acknowledged this is at least one aim if not the sole purpose of the committee’s work.
Gowdy and his colleagues deny this, saying their efforts are even-handed and interested only in what is relevant to understanding the 2012 attacks.
Gowdy spokesman Jamal Ware called the claims made in the suit “meritless.”
“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,” he said. “We look forward to responding to the allegations in due course and in the appropriate forum. And we are confident that once all the facts are known—should this case be permitted to proceed—we will be fully exonerated.”