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Former Benghazi investigator drops claims GOP unfair to Clinton

Air Force Reserve major Brad Podliska is dropping allegations he was terminated for refusing to unfairly target the Secretary of State.
Hillary Clinton examines evidence during her testimony before the House Select Committee on Benghazi on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Oct. 22, 2015. (Photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for MSNBC)
Former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton examines evidence before a break during her testimony before the House Select Committee on Benghazi on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Oct. 22, 2015. 
Air Force Reserve major Brad Podliska, a former investigator for the House Benghazi Committee, is dropping allegations that the committee unfairly targeted Hillary Clinton from his lawsuit against his former employer.

In his original suit against the committee, filed in November, the former Republican staff member alleged that he was terminated because he had to leave the committee for military reserve service and because he refused to "go along with the hyper-focus" on Clinton in the committee's investigation into the handling of the Benghazi attacks.

While Podliska's lawsuit sought to address alleged employment discrimination, the explosive charge of bias against Clinton fed into partisan battles over House Republicans approach to the issue. That allegation is now gone — his amended complaint removes any reference to Clinton — effectively retiring that argument as a legal matter. The shift was first reported by Politico.

MSNBC has confirmed the change in the amended complaint, and representatives from the committee and Podliska's legal team agree his suit no longer raises the Clinton issue.

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Benghazi Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, who exchanged sharp words with Podliska when he first sued, addressed the development on Monday.

"Our thorough, fact-centered investigation into Benghazi is not about the former Secretary of State — and our report will not be about her either," Gowdy told MSNBC.

Gowdy says his focus is on establishing the truth, and "the value and fairness of our investigation will be abundantly clear to everyone when they see the report for themselves," he added, previewing the committee's forthcoming report.

According to congressional sources familiar with the Committee's work, there is a view that the shift in the lawsuit is a vindication of their longstanding stance that the committee was not trying to single out Clinton for political purposes.

According to a source familiar with Podliska's legal team, plaintiffs can amend a complaint as a matter of course and the shift reflects a legal strategy for the case — not a wider retraction of Podliska's view that Committee staffers were hyper-focused on Clinton.

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The case has also involved a dispute over whether the committee's members are immune from the suit because of the Constitution's speech and debate clause, which can provide immunity from being sued for actions taken in members' roles as legislators.

The committee cited that clause as part of its rationale for asking a federal judge to dismiss the case.

It is possible that Podliska's legal strategy is to narrow his legal complaint to avoid conflict with that clause, focusing on his core employment argument — relying on a federal law protection servicemembers — and discarding the Clinton argument, which might wade into areas that are legally protected activities by the committee.

Indeed, apart from the political debate over whether the committee is overly or properly focused on Clinton, a judge may find it is legally valid for a legislative committee to focus on an executive branch official as part of its oversight role.

In any event, the change in the case suggests the dispute that may focus more on internal House employment matters and less on potential political dynamics surrounding Hillary Clinton.