They've got muck; we've got rakes. TPM Muckraker
Bradley Podliska, a 41-year-old Air Force reserve major, earned just under $108,000 for his work as an investigator on the Republican side of the committee between September 2014 and his firing in June, according to congressional records. Yet Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) denied even knowing who Podliska was.
"Because I do not know him, and cannot recall ever speaking to him, I can say for certain he was never instructed by me to focus on Clinton, nor would he be a credible person to speak on my behalf," Gowdy said Sunday in a statement to CNN.
The exact nature of Podliska's work on the select committee remains unclear, as the former investigator told CNN that a nondisclosure agreement prevented him from going into detail about the "wrongdoing" he said he uncovered at various agencies during his time working there. But some details of his biography shed light onto the conflicts that apparently arose during his nine-month stint investigating the Benghazi attacks.
He's an Air Force reservist
Podliska participated in ROTC when he was an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and later went on to join the Air Force reserve, according to an alumni interview on Georgetown University's website. He said he was stationed in Fort Worth, Texas before deploying to Iraq in 2008. He cited that tour in Iraq as his proudest achievement and said that "100 percent of our missions were successful."
Podliska's military service is set to play a central role in the wrongful termination lawsuit he told news outlets that he plans to file next month. He has contended that his colleagues on the select committee were annoyed that he needed to take a leave to complete his active duty requirements around the time that news outlets began reporting on Clinton's exclusive use of a private email account during her tenure at the State Department, according to The New York Times.
A committee spokesperson denied that Podliska's military service had anything to do with his dismissal and pointed out that the committee's top lawyer is a former judge advocate general, according to CNN.
He spent time in conservative media
Podliska emphasized in his interview with CNN that he considered himself a conservative Republican who lands "more on the libertarian side." To bolster his GOP bona fides, he told CNN he'd also chaired the College Republicans at UW-Madison and spent time as an intern for the Media Research Center, a media watchdog group founded by conservative activist and sort-of-columnist L. Brent Bozell.
Perhaps to quell any speculation that he's a Democratic plant or Clinton operative in disguise, Podliska assured CNN that he didn't support the Democratic presidential frontrunner, either.
"I am going to vote for the Republican nominee in 2016," he told the network. "I do not support Hillary Clinton for President."
He came to the committee from the intelligence community
Podliska spent the better part of 15 years working as an intelligence analyst at a federal defense agency before joining the select committee, according to the Times and CNN. He's also done intelligence work for the U.S. Joint Forces Command in Virginia, the Joint Warfare Analysis Center and the U.S. European Command in Germany, according to the Georgetown alumni interview.
Given his background, the former analyst told CNN and the Times that he disputed one of the three reasons for which a committee staff director told him he was fired: allegedly mishandling sensitive intel by putting classified information on an unclassified system.
Other attention he's received was for a blind date gone bad
Podliska wasn't a known entity in the world of politics until he came forward with his plans to sue the select committee. But he did appear in a 2011 Washington Post feature that sent two Washingtonians on a free blind date.
Here's how the Air Force reserve major described himself to the newspaper: "I’m extremely driven — I’m an academic, an Air Force officer, I work out five times a week, all in addition to holding a full-time job."
However, Podliska's blind date told the newspaper she didn't feel a spark. The woman, who was an architect, said she thought it was strange Podliska whipped out his cell phone to Google the Wisconsin labor union protests and prove to her that unions could compel workers to join up.
Podliska went on to turn the failed date into fodder for a storytelling show he performed in three years later. He explained to the audience that he participated in "Date Lab" because he'd recently gotten out of a five-year marriage—and he had harsher words for his date than were included in the Post's recap.
"My date liked to drink like a fish," he recounted. "I turned around and asked the waiter for more bread. She drinks. I ask her if she'd like another bottle of wine. She nods and drinks. I ask her 'Hey, how many siblings do you have?' She actually stops drinking and says 'Quit the chit-chat, I'm here to drink on The Washington Post's dime!"
Watch the bit below: