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. Unhuh

    ThinkAgain: Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.

    Let's see is CNN will post this:

    Why isn't Issa and Boehner opening investigations into why Bush ignored the August 6, 2001 President Daily Briefing specifically warning about al Qaeda attacking the U.S. using airplanes?

    ----–

    Or why they ignored the FBI agents , who made a trip to Bush's ranch (he was on another vacation) to personally warn him about Arab students in flight schools in Arizona, and how other flight schools needed to be checked. Only 3000 Americans died because of that. In our country. Bush's response- "OK, you've covered your a$$ now". GOP response "What difference does it make?"

    May 2, 2014 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  2. Wes

    Bye hilldabeast. Hoping maybe Elizabeth Warren might step up as a nominee. She's is less of a hack.

    May 2, 2014 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  3. ejb4501

    Uh, how many requests/subpoenas did the Bush Admin refuse...as a matter of pride? And over some VERY serious stuff. The GOP is trying to create a new Civil War.

    May 2, 2014 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  4. Amy

    Okay I have to say something because you Obama drones, wow!!!!!
    1. First off the embassy attacks that took place when President Bush were not portrayed as anything other than what they were terrorist attacks
    2. The American people were not told over and over for two weeks that they were the result of protests over a video.
    3. President Bush aggressively went after those who would murder our citizens. Obama's response uh the first time i heard about this was on the news and we will get those responsible, really, really, two years later Mr. President, I think your enemies are getting bolder.
    4. We had no more terrorist attacks against our Country after President Bush put in very aggressive and necessary policies. Obama, goes around yelling "we won't put up with it" "sanctions, " "why are you picking on me," "can't we all just get along." The Russians say sure we won't attack you right now, but we will our neighbors, "what are you going to do about" President Obama, "you are no longer our friends." The Fort Hood Terror Attacks, still classified as a work place violence incident, even though Hassan was in contact with the number one most wanted terrorist in the world. The Boston Marathon bombing, etc. etc.
    4. Obama said two weeks before the attacks that Al Queda was on the run, and then this happened. They had a terrorist threat on the Embassies, that is why Hilary Clinton canceled her appearance in the Russian Embassy. None of the personnel seemed to have been told, and there was no increase in security, how could Obama increase security if he just told people, Al Queda was on the run.

    There is so much more this President and his Administration have lied to us about, and worst of all, those who are tasked to protect, our brave men and women in uniform are treated like garbage, I mean really look at how well the VA runs there hospitals, pathetic anyone who still supports this man.

    May 2, 2014 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  5. tom l

    @Lynda,
    I'm not sure what the nanny state has to do with anything and I have never used that stupid term. It's meaningless; just like "moochers" or "takers" like the real tp tried to pin on me yesterday. These words are all meaningless now.

    What does matter is that we were lied to and then it was covered up. That's what matters. If you don't feel that it's important or that we were lied to, then sobeit and you can have that opinion. For me, the email that came out, the subsequent excuse that it wasn't any smoking gun from many of the people that post on here only to find out that Jay Carney then claims the email wasn't about Benghazi even though it was given out due to a request from the freedom of information act by a conservative group for all info with regards to Benghazi for some reason is unimportant to you.

    So maybe you can answer these three questions for me and I'm not trying to be argumentative but merely responding to your post:

    1. Why did Hillary Clinton say to the father of the fallen navy seal at his funeral that "we're going to get the guy that made that video and arrest him" days after the attack when, there is absolutely no doubt at that point, they knew full well it wasn't the video (and please don't use the national security line because you're better than that)
    2. Why did Obama talk about the video 2 weeks later at his UN speech when he knew it had nothing to do with video?
    3. Do you believe Jay Carney when he says that the email from Ben Rhodes wasn't about Benghazi at all?

    I would really hope to get a reply from you on this as I do want to know your opinion. I hope you're having a nice Friday. :)

    May 2, 2014 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  6. John

    The new birth certificate issue. Issa should be censured if not brought up on charges.

    May 2, 2014 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  7. Gail me Name

    Give me a break. It's a non story, only kept alive to waste taxpayers money and keep it in the news until the elections.

    May 2, 2014 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  8. Lynda/Minnesota

    @ tom

    Yes. I am having a very fine Friday. Then again I always do.

    Just to be clear, it doesn't matter to me one way or another.

    Oh. And thank you for allowing me to have my opinion. I'll keep going with it then, OK?

    May 2, 2014 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  9. Bill

    Is this the John Kerry who served in Viet Nam???

    May 2, 2014 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  10. Jack

    You know Mr. Boehner is solidifying the Republican right wing base with this move, hoping that they can rally the independents and undecided with ACA discontentment.

    I think that all they will do is shoot themselves in the foot

    May 2, 2014 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  11. Richard Smith

    "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."

    uh...., no, you haven't!! That's the problem!!

    May 2, 2014 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  12. davefe

    Breaking news...Benghazi is old news and no one is interested. GOP wants to talk about it but no one is listening. Fox news cuts away from Merkel Obama TV report after no one asks any questions. LOL

    How stupid do you have to be to make Benghazi your single issue in an election year. The politicizing of this by Issa and the other right wing conservatives poisoned the proceedings long ago. Nothing was uncovered, no conspiracies, no smoking gun. Very old news.

    May 2, 2014 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  13. Joel

    I love the fact that this CNN Video by Dana Davidsen had a very convenient mistake in it. When quoting the email by Rhodes she said "that it is NOT rooted in an internet video..." No Dana you got it wrong! I know you think we are stupid and can't read... Say it correct... Rhodes actually said that he wanted to make sure that the focus was on the internet video to take the heat off of the policy failures of this administration just prior to the presidents re-election. Very convenient and misleading of this administration to keep this information from the American people. We demand the truth!!

    May 2, 2014 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  14. TJeff1776

    LOL- the GOP continues to scrape the barrel's bottom for storing political dirt to attack Hilliary. She's so far ahead of the game, methinks we are about to embrace the first women Prez.

    May 2, 2014 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  15. Pete

    @David Gee,hey bud an independent committe made up of republicans found Hillary innocent or can't you read.And David hoe many were lost under Bushs ,Reagans terms as presidents and those were thousands compared to 4..David it was told that not only an Army general but the CIA told Stevens to leave Benghazi to go to Tripoli and he refused and can you say incompetent and irresponsible because he cost not only his life but others their lives..Get real people and read and quit relying on Fox for their biased ,crap news...

    May 2, 2014 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  16. D2016

    amid the Obama lies on Benghazi have they gotten anyone or made known to the world who was responsible and targeted him like bin laden . . .sadly still waiting . . .this is the real failure . . I doubt they are even looking as it will likely result in more questions on bad policy of Obama and Clinton.

    May 2, 2014 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  17. tim

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

    How, why is it in todays world we can never find our top officials when something rather large happens? No one knows where the president was during the Benghazi attack, no one can get in touch with Kerry because he is in Africa...somewhere I presume. Darn, I wish I could disappear as well when others wish to contact me.

    May 2, 2014 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  18. ldean50

    DEAR GOD IN HEAVEN. I think every voter in this country needs to be aware (both democrats and republicans) that there has already been FORTY-TWO....YES! YES! ... forty two senate hearings on the issue of Benghazi with absolutely NO findings. This is absolutely too much. There were more than 30 attacks on embassies during the Bush and Clinton administrations and NEVER has there been this kind of witch hunt/rhetoric. Vote out ALL the Congress – both houses – and lets start all over.

    May 2, 2014 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  19. Peter Gerdeman

    @GOP: (4) Americans died in Benghazi. Four. So, if you're going to have an investigation of what was known, and when, then how about we get to the bottom of the War in Iraq? Hmm? If GW Bush can opine that his brother would be a good president, then he can answer what he knew, and when, on WMD. In this case 5,000 Americans died. Not FOUR. 30,000 Americans wounded – 2/3rd significant lifetime injuries. 200,000 Iraqis dead – but I'm guessing the GOP doesn't count them as human lives. And, $2 Trillion – never budgeted – spent on lies. So, yeah, if we are going to roast folks about Benghazi, then let's roast the GWB Administration as well – you pathetic demagogic, war-mongering, pukes.

    May 2, 2014 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  20. John

    GOP GOP GOP we have ways to keep you in our pocket GOP GOP ...idiot politics

    May 2, 2014 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  21. Name. willard

    I said warning to presdient obama that people are trouble get fraud check from afrcian amercian so someone was got cash
    To waltmart from fraud check scam from afrcian amercian then waltmart will start stop cash with afrcian amercian

    May 2, 2014 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  22. gb333

    Dear lord, what a freaking waste of time.

    Thanks GOP, once again you're worthless.

    May 2, 2014 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  23. Politique

    Transcript of Susan Rice, speaking about the Benghazi attacks on ABC, September 16, 2012. 4 days after the attack:

    "TAPPER: So, first of all, what is the latest you can tell us on who these attackers were at the embassy or at the consulate in Benghazi? We're hearing that the Libyans have arrested people. They're saying that some people involved were from outside the country, that there might have even been Al Qaida ties. What's the latest information?

    RICE: Well, Jake, first of all, it's important to know that there's an FBI investigation that has begun and will take some time to be completed. That will tell us with certainty what transpired.

    But our current best assessment, based on the information that we have at present, is that, in fact, what this began as, it was a spontaneous - not a premeditated - response to what had transpired in Cairo. In Cairo, as you know, a few hours earlier, there was a violent protest that was undertaken in reaction to this very offensive video that was disseminated.

    We believe that folks in Benghazi, a small number of people came to the embassy to - or to the consulate, rather, to replicate the sort of challenge that was posed in Cairo. And then as that unfolded, it seems to have been hijacked, let us say, by some individual clusters of extremists who came with heavier weapons, weapons that as you know in - in the wake of the revolution in Libya are - are quite common and accessible. And it then evolved from there.

    We'll wait to see exactly what the investigation finally confirms, but that's the best information we have at present."

    Nice try Republicans, but your conspiracy theory isn't fooling anyone. Especially since there is direct and public evidence contrary to your deluded fantasy world.

    May 2, 2014 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  24. CALIFORNIA

    Benghazi is a scandal democrats, like it or not.

    May 2, 2014 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  25. mike

    So when thousands of US soldiers died in Iraq surrounded by the complete US military that was not a story. But when 4 Americans die in a war torn country with no government and not surrounded by US military that becomes a story. Someone's moral clock needs repair.

    May 2, 2014 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
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