May 2nd, 2014
11:25 AM ET
3 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. CrashMan

    Guiliani was "a noun, a verb, and 9/11." Issa is "Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi." Maybe he should not have voted AGAINST additional funding for security at the Libyan consulate, as Obama asked for 3 times prior to the event.

    May 2, 2014 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  2. michelle

    the violent protests killed over 50 people, not just 4

    May 2, 2014 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  3. Bill D

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

    I hate it when I read that statement. Those other 3 have names too. I wonder how their familes feel every time they read that.

    May 2, 2014 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  4. afvet

    The number one American in the country and this administration doesn't do a damn thing to try to help him. No, the first thing they do is think of cover-up and what do we blame it on. If this WH isn't going to lift a finger to save an Ambassador, then I know dam well they're not going to do anything for a low ranking military person like many of my loved ones.
    This is not business. It's extremely personal to the military – America left our people to die – told the military not to do anything, and admirals and generals who started rescues were relieved of duty and told to retire.

    May 2, 2014 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  5. Rosslaw

    Right-wingers have got to learn how to avolid being so transparently happy when Americans are killed. Oh by the way, when are Daryl and the rest of the "Al-Queda wet dream team" going to restore the $128 million in State Department security budget they cut in 2011 and, when that didn't work, the additional $333 million in State Department security they cut in 2012?

    May 2, 2014 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  6. radar8

    I don't understand the GOP. It's clear, at this point, that the Behghazi "embassy", was a covert CIA operation. Information could not be released and cover stories were needed.

    The deaths of the four Americans was not the fault of any Americans, GOP or Dems. It was the people that attacked the CIA mission.

    May 2, 2014 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  7. Papa

    Bush never lied or covered up embassy attacks, and he never blamed it on an American film maker. And the Obama administration did this so he wouldn't look bad in the election. This is very Nixionian. Obama promised hope and change and transparency but he's no different than any of our other corrupt politicians. We should all be outraged by this!

    May 2, 2014 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  8. liberty8765

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

    Really, it is not an accusation, but a fact, that email was not sent when originally requested by Congress.

    May 2, 2014 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  9. OldSchool

    *yawn* they're still beating this dead horse?

    May 2, 2014 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  10. jack2

    • Obama said at the third debate he knew it was an act of terror and called it that defending himself from people accusing him of blaming the video. However, he let Rice go for two weeks blaming it on a video. Hillary and Obama also told a wife of one of the men killed days later inches from her face that it was due to the movie.
    At the debate Obama said, quote: The day after the attack, governor, I stood in the rose garden and I told the American people and the world that we were going to find out exactly what happened, that this was an act of terror, and also said that we're going to hunt down those that committed this crime," he said.
    So if he knew it was terrorists as he indicates why did they continue to blame the video and did he not know Rice was blaming the video ( not likely). The answer is very very clear when comparing these. It just doesn't add up. If you have any common sense at all you can see they are lying.

    May 2, 2014 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  11. ritmocojo

    The fake rage over Benghazi is too much. Where were these yahoos when 27+ people were murdered at various embassies and consulates around the world during Du[m]bya's reign of terror?

    May 2, 2014 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  12. Dan Msiko

    I am sickened by:
    The lies that were told that day
    The attitude of Hillary, Obama and the White House in general
    The total lack of accountability
    The guilty still laughing and living free
    The major media ignoring this for FAR TOO LONG.

    May 2, 2014 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  13. gman

    This is not about the fact the embassy was attacked and Americans were killed. This is about the administration lying to the American people about this being a terrorist attack because the election was more important to them. Four Americans were murdered and the administration covered up who did it and did not pursue those that were responsible. Every American should be sickened by this. Quit being a lackey for your party and stand up for these Americans and stand up for justice.

    May 2, 2014 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  14. The republican schtick

    The fault lies with congress, alone, who failed to provide adequate funding for the embassy...and many embassies. But heaven forbid they ever cut back on welfare to big business and the 1%.

    May 2, 2014 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  15. Ken

    Our political system is broken and corrupt beyond repair. Our founding fathers have likely all rolled over in their coffins as they can't stand to watch this debacle. We as American citizens need to step up and say enough is enough. Stop voting in these career politicians as they are all bought and paid for by special interest groups. Demand that members of the Congress and Senate live by the rules that they force upon the rest of us. Stop offering gauranteed salaries and healthcare for life for these officials. I can only image the hundreds of millions of dollars per year that are being paid to former Senators and Congressmen/woman. That espcially sickens me because not one of them has the balls / ovaries to stand up and fight for something that they personally believe in, the only things they will fight for is what their respective parties tell them that they believe in.

    May 2, 2014 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  16. ritmocojo

    The irony of it all is that the Head witch hunter, Issa, was one of the "no" voters for additional funds for security at the Benghazi consulate. Go figure.

    May 2, 2014 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  17. cuisinemanager

    Obama is finding out the hard way that the cover up is much worse than the truth but I guess in Obama's case he won the election on a cover up and a lie. Obama has exiled the democratic party to the desert for the next 10+ years!

    May 2, 2014 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  18. kaiser Norton

    The point of the Benghazi inveistigation is this: Its about the election year politics. The adminstrations was using the defense/intelligence apparatus to cover for it's policy failures, in order to project strength in the face of an upcoming election. The last administration to be found doing so was the Nixon administration. Draw your own conclusions.....

    May 2, 2014 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  19. rafterman11

    afvet, that is all a lie. The military was not told to do nothing and no one was forced to retire because no one started "rescues". This isn't the movies where special forces can just go raging in, with no suitable maps or ides of the layout, no real ides where he was or what the situation is on the ground in terms of enemy forces and their positions. No CO is going to send his forces into a blind situation, surrounded by potentially hundreds or even thousands of hostiles. That's not a rescue mission, that's suicide. It took months to plan the bin laden mission and even the Israelis needed several days to prepare for the Uganda rescue mission from the 70s. Time to stop with these instant rescue fantasies.

    May 2, 2014 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  20. JY

    Every administration has been accused of withholding so the congress can make political points. GFAD Issa.

    May 2, 2014 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  21. rafterman11

    Dan Msiko
    I am sickened by:
    The lies that were told that day
    The attitude of Hillary, Obama and the White House in general
    The total lack of accountability
    The guilty still laughing and living free
    The major media ignoring this for FAR TOO LONG.

    -

    There you are, confusing "Hillary, Obama" with "Bush, Cheney" again.Otherwise, you are right on.

    May 2, 2014 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  22. Stephen

    Like this knucklehead is going to tell the truth......

    May 2, 2014 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  23. ThinkAgain: Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.

    Issa has to keep Benghazi in the news because the gop/tea bag base are so dim that if you don't keep repeating it, they'll forget what they're supposed to be all in a tizzy at.

    May 2, 2014 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  24. Chuck

    Those Repuglicans on here need to only hear one word. WMD. Remember the LIE? Untold lives were lost because of this LIE. Still waiting for the real War criminals to be brought to justive. Bush and Cheney.

    May 2, 2014 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  25. Johnny 5

    Kerry will just take to the stand, mumble a few words (which are dishonest) with a Droopy the Dog face and then go back to being a war baiting ramblin' man.

    May 2, 2014 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
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