May 2nd, 2014
11:25 AM ET
9 years 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.

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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. Tommy

    I think Congress should have the US Marshall arrest Obozo, Clinton arrested and stand trial for charges of treason.

    May 2, 2014 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  2. don in albuquerque


    People in hell demand ice water, and guess what. They ain't gettin it. Forty hearings and nothing. It is time for alot of people Issa subpoenas to start start saying "kiss mine".

    May 2, 2014 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  3. Cliff

    Politics politics politics........while America goes to the dogs. It does not matter who is in the White House or so it seems- GB's reign was a disaster two wars, Katrina and economy in deep recession by the time he left. Obama has probably done marginally better but certainly not great. The only way America is going to ever recover is for both parties to work together. You political hacks( both sides) are just lying to yourselves and making America becoming a3rd world country. Go Putin go

    May 2, 2014 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  4. Sonny

    Uh on Kerry. Now that you have started using the apart heid word to describe Is rael the trap has been set to end your career.

    May 2, 2014 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  5. The other guy

    That's pretty rich. Lurch will get his eventually, but this wasn't on his watch. This is on our next appointed president!

    May 2, 2014 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  6. amercon

    The income inequality grew fastest under Obama.
    The fact is the recession was officially over by the time Obama took office and this is an extremely slow recovery. Obama’s policies inhibit economic growth and the modest reduction in unemployment came from people giving up on finding jobs, applying for handicap status, and being forced unto food stamps. The civilian labor force participation rate decreased significantly.

    May 2, 2014 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  7. A. C. I.

    There is nothing new here really. Anyone who is not a complete "uninformed voter" knew that this was a "terrorist" action from the start. The mystery has been not the fact of this as a terrorist action, but the insane denial of this on the part of the administration that this was not a terrorist action. Even that....OK administrations lie to suit their purposes. The real problem here is that the administration lied every way it could, in a cartoon sort of way–setting up their spoke persons, that they knew they would abandoned later., and the further denial on the part of the them as to setting them up in the first place. Obama lied, people died

    May 2, 2014 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  8. Independant Voter

    These people have absolutely no shame. These GOP politicians and Tea Party Wing Nuts disgust me in ways words cannot describe. We lost almost 3000 on 911. It was their watch and it was on our own soil. And these same GOP politicians did everything they could to block any true investigation leading up to the attacks. We have lost over 4000 service people after these same GOP politicians tried to link 911 to Iraq and when that failed they fabricated WMD. Now they cry to the Heavens for 4 people who died on foreign soil. And why did they die, mainly because their security force was cut in half due to budget cuts by these same GOP politicians. These are just more seeds of Fascism. These GOP politicians need to be removed from office. One way or the other, through the vote or through the courts.

    May 2, 2014 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  9. kitn

    I don't care about this email; it is one of several preparation points for Rice-who fric'n' cares.? I read it; nada. I guess when 'they' have nothing to talk about and no accomplishments; this is what they do over and over and over; kinda like Obamacare. ENOUGH already. Boehner, DO something with those supposed 'stacks of jobs bills', what a joke.

    May 2, 2014 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  10. cbp

    Many lessons were learned from Benghazi. Unfortunately walking about a city in a war-torn country is just one of the lessons. Ambassador Stevens was very well-liked and trusted the people in this country. Some in the crowd started firing and all heck broke out. The end result was the murder of the ambassador and three other men,

    Daryl Issa has been holding hearings on this topic so it is quite surprising that the Speaker would ask for separate hearings, Many panels did "investigate over the years. During the Reagan years when we had Iran Contra the President was shielded from the mess.

    May 2, 2014 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  11. Jerry

    He (Ketchup Kerry) should NOT be subpoenaed; he should be fired along with his clueless/unpatriotic/divisive boob boss (0-Bama)!

    May 2, 2014 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  12. Winston Smith

    Politics, at it's worst. If not for the elections coming up, no one, not one person at all on the republican side of stupidity, would care. Not one.

    May 2, 2014 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  13. J. Gordon

    Issa...Ready, Fire, Aim

    May 2, 2014 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  14. andy

    Benghazi, Irs targeting, running guns to mexico, the "red line" in syria, Ukraine, boston bombers, domestic spying. welcome to the most incompetent, corrupt administration in history. Its a sad state of affairs for America

    May 2, 2014 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  15. Alan/Maui

    Presidunce Obama.... what a gem... Corrupt adminstration that lies to the nation on a regular bassis. Yet the Koolaid guzzlers still are a chugging! Amazingly sad.

    May 2, 2014 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  16. Jenna

    For me the tragedy of Bengazi is an attempt wasn't made to get to them. They didn't even try. And for that I'm completely disgusted

    May 2, 2014 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  17. J.V.Hodgson

    Darrel Issa asking who was then just a senator to testify about Benghazi is really nonsense.
    that said has it occurred to anyone that Boehner is requesting this " select committee" because of Issa's mishandling in recent times of his committee, Which is virtually useless in effect to most people.
    Think this so called Undisclosed Email was obtained via a FOIA request ooops he could have done that thru his committee as well Incompetent oversight procedures.
    4 commitees have been investigating this for god knows how long none of them have traced what the conspiracy theory they want the White House to be involved in.
    Their own foreign policy is so weak, better words are "Ineffective" or "warmongering".

    May 2, 2014 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
  18. lou tillman

    Obama is doing marginally better ? I guess dems dont worry about their credit cards . National debt explosion is on this president -as he tries to bankrupt the country and fulfill the dreams of his father (who hated capitalism )
    Anyone reflecting on Bush now has their head stuck deep into the sand . And consequently -we are not getting stronger in any way . When Hillary steps in -we will be lucky not to be taken over ! Denial does not protect a country .

    May 3, 2014 02:19 am at 2:19 am |
  19. DriveByPoster

    why are they calling on kerry to testify?????? it has HILLARY you dumbies....

    oh for chrissakes.

    May 3, 2014 04:17 am at 4:17 am |
  20. DriveByPoster

    forget kerry... go for O'BAMA! THROUGH HIS SCRAWNY BUTT IN JAIL!

    May 3, 2014 04:20 am at 4:20 am |
  21. smith1

    republicans are a disgusting lot. Like they really care. Aside from making the administration look bad this is a waste of time They don't care.. Why didn't they vote to fund these assignments. ? Every report and even this E mail supports what the administration has said yet they waste tax payers dollars looking for boogiemen. Tired of the nonsense these trolls are doing? Vote them out. Forward.

    May 3, 2014 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  22. dbhbk1

    Rep. House Leader Boehner announced the formation of a select committee to further investigate the deadly 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, that left the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans dead.
    Where was the outrage on Iraqi War from the Republicans on the lies from the Bush administration?
    Our goal was to find weapons of mass destruction, Did we find any, NO and it cost us almost 4,500 U.S. troops were killed and more than 32,000 wounded, including thousands with critical brain and spinal injuries. Estimates of the number of Iraqi civilian fatalities are staggering, ranging from 100,000 to 600,000.The monetary cost will exceed $3 trillion.

    May 3, 2014 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  23. Hugo

    dbhbk1, You're right, I think every person in Congress that voted to allow war with Iraq be held accountable this next election cycle and in 2016...uh-oh, that would include Hillary Clinton et al; on the left side of the aisle. There still remains the question of chemical weapons in Syria, where do you suppose they were manufactured? The Benghazi action far surpasses anything that Bush did, it was incompetence, negligence, treason and criminal deceit perpetrated for political necessity to assist Obama in his re-election. This makes Watergate look like child's play, I hope they crucify everyone involved, it is criminal!

    May 3, 2014 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
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