House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa is issuing a subpoena for Secretary of State John Kerry to testify before the committee May 21 about Benghazi, Issa announced Friday.
The move comes in the wake of new, “smoking gun” emails that show top White House officials working to craft a narrative that the attack was the result of a YouTube video and “not a broader failure of policy.”
Republicans have expressed outrage that the documents were not provided earlier under subpoenas for them, but were instead revealed via a Freedom Of Information Request lawsuit by the conservative non-profit group Judicial Watch.
“Compliance with a subpoena for documents is not a game. Because your Department is failing to meet its legal obligations, I am issuing a new subpoena to compel you to appear before the Committee to answer questions about your agency’s response to the congressional investigation of the Benghazi attack,” Issa said in a May 2 letter to Kerry.
Regarding the Obama administration’s failure to provide the documents before now, Issa warns Kerry, “such contempt of Congress may constitute a criminal offense.”
On Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner called on Kerry to testify before the House to explain why the documents weren’t provided earlier.
“The House used its subpoena power to obtain documents, including emails, last year, but these emails didn’t show up until now, after a court ordered their release to an outside watchdog group,” Boehner said.
“This defiance of the House’s subpoena power is the most flagrant example yet of the administration’s contempt for the American people’s right to know the truth about what happened when four Americans died in a fiery terrorist attack. If the White House won’t explain it, Secretary Kerry should come to the Capitol to explain why he defied an official congressional subpoena. And the White House needs to understand that this investigation will not end until the entire truth is revealed and justice and accountability are served,” Boehner added.
“The email from Ben Rhodes demonstrates the Obama administration from the beginning misled Congress, the media and most importantly, the American people,” Majority Leader Eric Cantor said on Wednesday. “It is increasingly clear that this administration orchestrated an effort to deflect attention away from their failed Libya policy and the resurgence of Al Qaeda and other terrorists.”
The key email in question from then-White House Deputy Strategic Communications Adviser Ben Rhodes, included an overview of suggestions for Susan Rice for her appearance on the Sunday news shows two days later.
One suggestion was: “To underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure or policy.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney has said the Sept. 14, 2012 email was “explicitly not about Benghazi,” and noted that a series of protests over the video had occurred in Cairo, Egypt and other locations.
Republicans have noted the Benghazi attacks were the dominant news topic two days after four Americans had been killed there, that the other talking points in the email are about Americans “harmed” overseas and no Americans were harmed in the protests — only at Benghazi — and that the email was provided in response to a FOIA inquiry about Benghazi.
Secretary Kerry Subpoenaed to Appear Before Oversight Committee
WASHINGTON – Today, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., announced the issuance of a subpoena for testimony to Secretary of State John Kerry. The subpoena requires Secretary Kerry to appear before the Committee to answer questions at a public hearing on May 21, 2014.
“The State Department’s response to the congressional investigation of the Benghazi attack has shown a disturbing disregard for the Department’s legal obligations to Congress,” Chairman Issa writes in a letter to Secretary Kerry accompanying the subpoena. “Compliance with a subpoena for documents is not a game. Because your Department is failing to meet its legal obligations, I am issuing a new subpoena to compel you to appear before the Committee to answer questions about your agency’s response to the congressional investigation of the Benghazi attack.”
On April 17, 2014, the State Department sent a letter informing the Committee that it was producing previously unreleased e-mails subject to prior requests and subpoenas. These e-mails show that White House official Ben Rhodes coordinated talking points for then-Ambassador Susan Rice which encouraged an emphasis that the attack was “rooted in an Internet video, and not a failure of policy.”
“The fact that these documents were withheld from Congress for more than 19 months is alarming,” wrote Chairman Issa. “The Department is not entitled to delay responsive materials because it is embarrassing or implicates the roles and actions of senior officials.”
Yesterday, retired USAF Brig. Gen. Robert Lovell, who was in the operations control room in Germany on the night of the attacks, testified that the State Department never asked military forces to go save Americans in Benghazi during the attack.
Click here for a copy of Issa’s letter to Kerry.