ABC News’ John R. Parkinson & Matthew Jaffe report:
House Oversight & Government Reform Committee chairman Darrell Issa today fired his spokesman Kurt Bardella after Bardella leaked emails from reporters to a New York Times journalist working on a book on Washington.
On Monday evening Politico reported that Bardella had supplied the New York Times’ Mark Leibovich with emails that he had exchanged with reporters. Issa told Politico that he would investigate the matter. On Tuesday he announced Bardella’s firing.
“While our review of allegations raised by Politico is not yet complete, it has become clear that the committee’s Deputy Communications Director Kurt Bardella did share reporter e-mail correspondence with New York Times journalist Mark Leibovich for a book project,” Issa said in a statement Tuesday. “Though limited, these actions were highly inappropriate, a basic breach of trust with the reporters it was his job to assist, and inconsistent with established communications office policies. As a consequence, his employment has been terminated.”
Despite Issa’s swift firing of Bardella, the scandal could prove damaging, since the congressman is the Republicans’ chief watchdog, overseeing a committee that regularly handles high-profile Congressional investigations.
Issa sought to put to rest fears that Bardella had leaked internal Congressional documents in addition to the emails.
“After hearing Kurt’s account, speaking with Mark Leibovich, and an initial review of e-mail correspondence there is no evidence to support speculation that internal committee or congressional documents or conversations were inappropriately shared, that Mark Leibovich ever inappropriately heard or recorded any phone conversation, or that any official rule violations occurred. The inappropriate information shared with Mark Leibovich appears to have been limited to Kurt’s own correspondence with reporters,” Issa said.
The book project stemmed from a Nov. 2010 request from Leibovich. Bardella’s bosses granted the request, but sharing emails with reporters was never part of the plan, Issa noted.
Last Friday the House panel was first contacted by Politico about the issue.
Since then, the California lawmaker stated, “I have not found or heard anything, including Kurt’s own account, which contradicts these explanations.”
“In explaining his intentions in participating in Mark Leibovich’s book, Kurt has told me he saw this as an opportunity to contribute a narrative about what a press secretary does on Capitol Hill and was not about offering salacious details designed to settle scores or embarrass anyone,” Issa said. “My review of materials thus far supports that characterization.”
“I intend to finish our review and rebuild any broken trust with the journalists who cover the important work of our committee.”