May 2nd, 2014
11:25 AM ET
6 months ago

Kerry subpoenaed to testify over Benghazi documents

(CNN) - House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa announced Friday he has subpoenaed Secretary of State John Kerry to testify about the terror attack in Benghazi.

The California Republican called on Kerry to appear at a May 21 hearing.

Republicans have accused the Obama administration of withholding documents from Congress that were previously subpoenaed.

Related: Benghazi – government cover-up or right-wing conspiracy theory?

The terror attack on the American diplomatic compound in eastern Libya in September 2012 killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

"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," Issa wrote in a letter to Kerry.

"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."

The State Department said Kerry was traveling in Africa and it was not clear if he was aware of the subpoena.

Spokeswoman Marie Harf called the move "highly unusual," considering an invitation for testimony is usually extended before a subpoena.

"We are surprised that in the first instance they resorted to a subpoena, given we've been cooperating all along with the committee, and did not reach out before they did so," she said.

On Tuesday, the conservative group Judicial Watch made public documents it received in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

One of the documents was a previously undisclosed email on September 14, 2012, from Ben Rhodes, a national security official specializing in communications, that listed talking points about protests that had erupted at U.S. embassies and compounds in the Muslim world.

Among the goals listed in the Rhodes email was to "underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy." The intelligence community later said the assault was a result of a coordinated terrorist attack and not the protests.

The existence of the Rhodes email is new, and that provides Republicans with a fresh front in their attacks on the administration over Benghazi. However, the messaging of the Rhodes email is the same as previously released documents.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the Oversight Committee, blasted the call to compel Kerry's testimony.

"These actions are not a responsible approach to congressional oversight, they continue a trend of generating unnecessary conflict for the sake of publicity, and they are shockingly disrespectful to the secretary of state," the Maryland Democrat said in a statement.

Disclosure of the Rhodes email prompted House Speaker John Boehner on Friday to announce that he will form a select committee to investigate Benghazi. Key Republican senators appealed to Majority Leader Harry Reid to work with Boehner on forming a joint panel.

CNN's Deirdre Walsh, Ashley Killough and Tom Cohen contributed to this report.


Filed under: Darrell Issa • Elijah Cummings • John Kerry
soundoff (373 Responses)
  1. David

    if the Republicans spend half as much time and effort trying to make this country a better place for the 99% as they have spend trying to destroy Obama, we would be much better off as a country.

    May 2, 2014 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  2. elucidated1

    Darrell Issa voted in 2012 to cut Embassy security funding by $300 M.

    May 2, 2014 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  3. scarf

    Hillary's statement before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 01/23/13 is as valid today as it was then:

    Sen. Ron Johnson: ...we were misled that there were supposedly protests and that something sprang out of that...and that was easily ascertained that that was not the fact, and the American people could have known that within days and they didn't know that.

    Sec. of State Hillary Clinton: With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided that they'd go and kill some Americans? WHAT DIFFERENCE AT THIS POINT DOES IT MAKE? (emphasis mine) It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator.

    If there were any substance to accusations of an Administration coverup, why is it necessary to take Clinton's statement out of context and distort it to make it appear that she didn't care about the dead Americans when, in fact, it was her questioner who didn't care about the dead Americans?

    May 2, 2014 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  4. paul reynolds

    Strange! RepubliCons all know about the 24 Embassy Attacks under Dubya = IGNORED

    Yet 1 Embassy Attack under Obama after the GOP themselves slashed Border and Embassy Security budgets = OUTRAGE.!!!?

    May 2, 2014 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  5. steve

    I hope that Kerry will testify at that hearing.He will make Issa look like the fool that he really is!

    May 2, 2014 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  6. paul reynolds

    So the 55 GOP Bills to Repeal ObamaCARE for Americans (despite ZERO chance in the other 2 Branches) has not yet wasted Enough U.S. Government and Taxpayer dollars..!??

    How in the world do more "Hearings" make the U.S. any SAFER or create JOBS like they hollered over and over 2010 and 2012..???

    May 2, 2014 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  7. WildG

    Politicians in the United States and Britain are made to pass under the yoke of their Zionista masters who control our leading political parties. By forcing our political leaders to accept the ZionistA yoke our nations have become subjugated and the pro-Israel agenda has been forced upon the American and British people.

    May 2, 2014 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  8. Jean

    Its' almost sad, if it weren't so scary, that I don't think Obama had a clue about any of this, just as he doesn't seem to have a clue about other very distrubing things happening on his watch such as the IRS abuses and the VA Hospital debacle, etc.. He seems to use the line: "when I heard about it on the news" a lot. Kinda like that problem with the Obamacare website rolllout he didn't know about until it was too late. All I know is if I had responsiblity for a project that would define my, and my bosses, job and I didn't tell my boss about an issue that would end up putting egg on his/her face I 'd be fired in a heartbeat – Sebelius and Obama should both have been fired a long long time ago. Lest we forget – Obama WORKS for us, not the other way around. Nothing personal but the guy is doing a very lousy job.

    May 2, 2014 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  9. Tony

    When Bush told the American people that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, Republicans claimed it was bad intelligence. When Obama told the American people that a videotape may have led to the Benghazi attack, which was what the CIA believed at the time, Republicans claimed it was a coverup. Maybe Democrats should go back and investigate whether the Bush Administration covered up information that Saddam did not have weapons of mass destruction?

    May 2, 2014 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  10. how dare

    Yes that's the ticket, - How dare the GOP, question the administrations bond with terrorists that kill americans, and did nothng to defend them except try to spin it to make themselves look good. How dare they!..

    May 2, 2014 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  11. Bob Ross

    Darrell Issa is a blithering idiot. Too bad the voters in his district are, too.

    May 2, 2014 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  12. Unhuh

    Chairman Issa's actions stand in stark contrast to the way the Committee has previously handled similar issues. For example, Chairman Henry Waxman issued a subpoena in 2007 to require Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to testify only after he had sent multiple letters requesting her testimony and after a full debate and vote by the entire Committee. Even after the Committee voted to issue the subpoena, Chairman Waxman worked with the Secretary to identify a date that worked for her schedule, ultimately postponing the hearing more than four months.

    At the time, Issa opposed the vote to issue a subpoena to Secretary Rice, complaining about "the inappropriateness of hauling the secretary of state ... out of the performance of her job."

    May 2, 2014 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  13. Wade

    CNN is a disgrace! This should have been on the front page under the headlines " Obama caught red handed in another lie!" This story has no place in the political section. AMERICANS DIED!

    May 2, 2014 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  14. alexander

    "At this point what does it matter" as per Hillary who withheld security and they could not find the Obummer cause he was
    probably in no shape to talk to anybody. Was he hanging out with Fat Al not sure but a lot of folks want to know. Did you catch the knucklehead who was hanging out in the situation room " he could not remeber" excuse me four americans died and an ambassotor to boot > what you smoking crack down there. This is want we elected into office. I guess when the call came in at 3AM NOBODY PICKED UP THE PHONE. a holes

    May 2, 2014 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  15. tom l

    Pretty funny to hear the dems on here go back to the "where's the funding" mantra as if that's a legitimate tact. What does that have to do with the video that we were told about for days, the email from Rhodes and now Carney saying that said email wasn't even about Benghazi. smh

    May 2, 2014 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  16. Mike The American

    "Benghazi – government cover-up or right-wing conspiracy theory?"

    A little bit of both.

    May 2, 2014 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  17. paul reynolds

    24 Embassy Attacks under Dubya = NOT Bush's Fault
    $24 Billion "Lost" in Iraq under Dubya = NOT Bush's Fault
    Prison Torturing by Americans under Dubya = NOT Bush's Fault
    100s of thousands Killed or Mamed on Duty under Dubya Invasions = NOT Bush's Fault
    911 Worst Disaster and Attack on American Soil in History = NOT Bush's Fault
    CIA Agent Identify leaked out intentionally = NOT Bush's Fault
    Over 200,000 Military Assault Weapons "Lost" under Dubya = NOT Bush's Fault

    But 1 Embassy Attack after the GOP Slashes Border and Embassy Security Budgets = IMPEACH Obama!!!?

    May 2, 2014 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  18. Pinewalker

    as a conservative I am just as tired of hearing about Benghazi as everyone else. But, then something else comes out about how far the American people were misled on what happened here because of an election in their midst and I get enraged all over again. Regardless of a person's ideology or party, I respect a person conducts themselves with honor and respect for the office given. We don't respect sports figures who do anything to win the game or get ahead. That would seem trivial to being a position of leadership in a country of our stature. I didn't sit by and play party politics when the Republican party were twiddling their thumbs and people were sitting stranded for days in the superdome at Katrina. I called, wrote and e-mailed anyone who would listen. On Benghazi Democrats....anyone who has voted in a Democrat recently should be doing the same. Whether they knew or didn't know seem to be equally as damning because if they didn't know, they should have known and if they did know and purposely misled the American people, it would seem either would be extreme failure at the highest level. Since when are we as Americans going to just going to sit by and let something like this pass without a second thought? another sad day in America.

    May 2, 2014 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  19. roro

    Sec. of State John Kerry has better and more important things to do than go before yet another useless hearing called by Darrell Issa. Since Issa has no problem wasting taxpayer money on these hearings that prove nothing, I think he should starting paying the bill since he is the richest man in the House. Let him waste his own money – not mine.

    May 2, 2014 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  20. rad666

    Uh, how about Democrat presidential front runner that was in charge at the time?

    Oh yeah, what difference, at this point, does it make?

    May 2, 2014 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  21. we need muslims vaporized

    Call Obama in and put this terrorist muslim pagan under oath. Time to get the skinny nerd weed screw up impeached.

    May 2, 2014 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  22. Lynda/Minnesota

    @ tom I

    Actually tom, none of this matters one way or another except that our enemies are more than likely enjoying the show Issa is putting on for their benefit, not ours. But it has been ... well, enlightening to read the various comments suggesting otherwise. I almost feel as if I clicked into a alternate universe. If one needs to be told an attack against Americans is terrorism, then I suspect we've lost our way since 9/11, or are unable to think for ourselves. More than likely both.

    So much for that nanny government you speak of, eh? Looks as if GOPerville actually does need nannies to sort things out for them.

    May 2, 2014 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  23. Al

    What ever day it is book me a trip out of the country....

    May 2, 2014 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  24. xlanlfc

    Seems like a lot of people aren't concerned if their current Presidential Administration might be deliberately misleading them for political gain. Not saying this one is. Administrations of the past of both political parties are guilty of this, but that doesn't make it OK. I say trust, but verify.

    May 2, 2014 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  25. David Gee

    I love seeing all the Obama groupies circling the wagons when despite CNN and MSMBCs best efforts The regime is caught in a (another) lie. This one cost 4 brave American their lives- I know... I know..... I'm a racist.... Its all Bush's fault.... yada yada;....
    Why cant you admit – that you made a error in judgment, and elected an inept buffoon – to paraphrase MLK "not because of the color of his skin, but because of the lack of content of his character."

    May 2, 2014 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
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