May 2nd, 2014
11:25 AM ET
8 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. Sniffit

    "I would like to know who decided not to aid these Americans."

    Logistical reality decided not to aid them. The military and intelligence communities have already proven that beyond any doubt. They could not have gotten anyone there in time to save anyone. In fact, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA), A REPUBLICAN, said the following yesterday:

    "The Armed Services Committee has interviewed more than a dozen witnesses in the operational chain of command that night, yielding thousands of pages of transcripts, e-mails, and other documents. We have no evidence that Department of State officials delayed the decision to deploy what few resources DoD had available to respond,"

    He also noted that Brig. Gen. Lovell, the guy who suggested during testimony that State Dept. people did that and who Issa and the Teatrolls like to point to as proving it, was not in a position to even know that information: "BG Lovell did not serve in a capacity that gave him reliable insight into operational options available to commanders during the attack, nor did he offer specific courses of action not taken."

    May 2, 2014 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  2. ThinkAgain: Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.

    When is Issa going to open hearings on the 13 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities that occurred during the Bush presidency?

    Are those lives not important?

    May 2, 2014 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  3. mike

    Issa should be sent to the Middle East since he considers himself such an expert. I suggest a Taliban controlled region of Pakistan.

    May 2, 2014 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  4. Silence DoGood

    @scranton
    I thought Hillary said it doesn't matter Americans are dead.
    ----------
    Actually that is the opposite of what she said in context, not as a sound bite from Hannity. She is a smart lady who uses lots of words that you have to think about.

    You may want to avert your eyes if you prefer the conspiracy over the truth. The truth follows (easy to verify online): She was being hounded about the motivation of the attackers. She said "what does it matter" about the motivation, it was more important that 4 people died and we should look into preventing this in the future.

    May 2, 2014 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  5. Sniffit

    To explain this in a nutshell:

    #8Million

    May 2, 2014 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  6. Larry38363

    Issa (the right wing idiot from Orange Country, CA) and the Republicans are so concerned about the budget and cut backs, yet they continue to waste OUR money on this crap! Oh well, another gerrymandered election coming up so I guess who gives a damn.

    May 2, 2014 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  7. Papa

    Yeah, what difference does it make that we lied to the American people that we're supposed to serve, just to make ourselves look better and protect our poliitical futures. Hillary Clinton

    May 2, 2014 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  8. Kendall

    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%.
    **************************************************************************************
    It's about knowingly and repeatedly lying to the American people for political gain......That's the Lib's "schtick"......facts are out and heads are going to roll.

    May 2, 2014 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  9. Silence DoGood

    @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?
    ---------
    I bet some of the tin foil hat folks will argue, I seriously believe:
    – that didn't really happen
    – it did happen but it was Obama's fault, backwards in time.

    May 2, 2014 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  10. bobo

    Hmmm..... I though Hillary Clinton was Sec. of State at the time.....

    May 2, 2014 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  11. gman

    @Chuck

    Kerry and Clinton also voted to go to Iraq. Should they be prosecuted also?

    May 2, 2014 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  12. Pete/Ark

    It might help if Issa et al restored funding for embassy security ...they might even find it in their black little hearts to allow the Marine Corps to get back to doing the job rather than giving it to their beloved PMCs .

    May 2, 2014 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  13. my10cents

    An undisclosed email which does not refute already known information would for most intelligent people be considered redundant details. Darrell Issa is a jacka$$, nobody without his Benghazi witch hunt. This is purely a an election based grandstanding issue and does nothing but further the current political divide. A stupid selfish move from a stupid selfish politician.

    May 2, 2014 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  14. dnokc

    Couple of white guys and a couple of Christians died.
    Like Hillary said "What does it really matter?"

    May 2, 2014 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  15. scarf

    Maybe someone can explain this to me. If Obama was blaming the attack on a film, knowing full well that the attack was actually a terrorist attack, and did so in order to preserve his chances at re-election, why did he a few days after the attack, and well before election day, admit that the attack wasn't due to the movie and really was a terrorist attack?

    May 2, 2014 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  16. Sniffit

    "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."

    And yet, the funniest part is that they'll still be in a tizzy anyway. They barely even need a reason.

    May 2, 2014 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  17. ThinkAgain: Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.

    @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."

    The Administration did NOT cover up who did it and HAS pursued those responsible. It was called an act of terror on September 12 by the President – FACT. You are all in a tizzy because he didn't use the word "terrorism" – I guess that's a big deal to folks like you who are so easily lead by words.

    May 2, 2014 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  18. bobo

    Geez.... Even the NY Times is reporting on Benghazi....
    "Page 8 of yesterday’s New York Times amounts to an admission of journalistic error.

    “A newly released email shows that White House officials sought to shape the way Susan E. Rice, then the ambassador to the United Nations, discussed the Middle East chaos that was the context for the attack on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012.”

    May 2, 2014 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  19. Sniffit

    HAHAHAHA...conservative agitprop at its finest:

    Faux News literally cut away from Obama's press conference with German Chancellor Merkel today and stopped covering it whatsoever. Anchor Harris Faulkner literally stated that Benghazi was all Faux wants to talk about:

    "If in fact somebody throws him a question on this topic, we'll go back to that joint news conference with Angela Merkel and you could hear the translation points."

    In other words, they only want to cover the President of the United States when they can spin something negative about him out of it. The president wasn't asked about Benghazi. Faux did not return to the joint press conference with the two U.S. and German leaders. Both MSNBC and CNN covered it start to finish.

    May 2, 2014 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  20. Dead Bear

    More than 4 Americans die everyday due to gun violence in our own country. Where's the Republican outrage over that? Oh, that's right! Figuring out the root causes of daily tragic events in our own streets is less of a political priority than those of an incident that happened in a war-torn country during a Democrat president's term. Gotcha!

    May 2, 2014 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  21. Lalola

    Why is the gop politicizing a national tragedy?

    May 2, 2014 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  22. rafterman11

    Maybe someone can explain this to me. If Obama was blaming the attack on a film, knowing full well that the attack was actually a terrorist attack, and did so in order to preserve his chances at re-election, why did he a few days after the attack, and well before election day, admit that the attack wasn't due to the movie and really was a terrorist attack?

    -

    Yep, that massive two day "coverup".

    May 2, 2014 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  23. kingliberal

    Looks like it's time to fire up the Ben Gahzi drinking game again. *Drink

    May 2, 2014 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  24. Rico

    This was obviously a battle in the quasi-covert war between AQ and the CIA. the CIA lost this one.

    The GOP's desire to expose the CIA base to hurt Obama amounts to treason. They force the White House to invent a cover story to protect the covert ops' lives. And then go after the cover story as Administration malfeasance.

    Not much different from the Plame case. These guys don't care about national security, but about their own power.

    That's why when the sequester decimated the defense budget, they yawned.

    May 2, 2014 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  25. Glenn

    This is silly to me. How do people equate "not knowing" something with "lying" about it? How do people think that it has to be one or the other "about a video" or "about terror". Maybe it was BOTH. Follow my logic.... terrorist sees video, gets enraged, decides to commit an act of terror. I really don't get what people don't get. Aside from which, how are you supposed to know right away if it was an act of terror anyway? What is an act of terror? It sure seemed terrible. Who cares exactly why they were mad or what we call it? Why are some people determined to drag the administration around on this? Did we blame 911 on Bush? No. LET IT GO.

    May 2, 2014 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
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