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. Lynda/Minnesota

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

    Yep. And then Issa plans on calling all potential future SOS's to testify on Benghazi after Kerry has been grilled.

    May 2, 2014 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  2. Silence DoGood

    Thanks MSM for keeping the Benghazi conspiracy theory in the news.
    What was that about the darned liberal media? It is a myth.

    May 2, 2014 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  3. Sniffit


    May 2, 2014 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  4. Tony

    The e-mails mean that people at the White House were engaged in a PR campaign. No one has been prosecuted for the Benghazi attack, and until there is a trial no one knows what was the motivation behind the attack. Democrats wanted to believe, and they wanted people to believe, a theory of the event that was more favorable to Democrats. It was just a PR campaign, and that is not a crime. It is similar to Republicans wanting to believe, and wanting people to believe, that the president did not want people to think the Benghazi attack was terrorism, even though Obama used the words "act of terror" several times in the days after the attack. Somehow Republicans imagined that there was a meaningful difference between "act of terror" and a terrorist attack. Misguided, yes. But not a crime.

    The president did not use the word "terrorism," because the attack had just happened. People associated the word "terrorism" with Al Qaeda, and we did not have definitive proof that Al Qaeda was involved. Obama learned a lesson from Bush, and did not want to jump to conclusions. But the attack seemed pretty likely to be an terrorist act, so Obama used the less loaded words "act of terror." Just remember, we went into Iraq because people were sure that Saddam was connected to the 9/11 attack, and more than 4,000 American soldiers, plus untold number of Iraqis, died.

    May 2, 2014 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  5. Sniffit

    More waste of time nonsense designed solely for the midterms.

    May 2, 2014 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  6. Sniffit

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

    Elephants hiding in the strawberry patches! We know they're there because we can't find them! Yawn.

    May 2, 2014 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  7. Silence DoGood

    Thanks for that lucid, well thought out comment. Here, here!

    May 2, 2014 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  8. Denise

    Just wait until benghazi rolls around again! lol If at first you don't succeed keep on losing! Reminds me of the Kansas City Chiefs. We hear the same thing year in and year out...

    May 2, 2014 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  9. Sniffit

    "Are the GOP just mad that we didn't start another "unfunded/off-the-books" war?

    Partly. They're also mad they lost the WH in 2008 and 2012 and that the POTUS is black and that demographic shifts are causing them severe existential problems. That's pretty much the root of all of it in a nutshell.

    May 2, 2014 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  10. Lynda/Minnesota

    Oh. Did CNN change the article picture to give GOPerville more umph for their clicks ... ?

    May 2, 2014 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  11. yerkiddinright

    Unemployment down. Hiring up. GOP blocks debate on minimum wage. Time to scream BENGHAZI! BENGHAZI!

    May 2, 2014 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  12. ryan

    "WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE?" Hilllary Clinton

    May 2, 2014 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  13. Sniffit

    "The e-mails mean that people at the White House were engaged in a PR campaign."

    LOL. Dude...chillax. This is exactly the kind of memo that is written 500 times a day in every single politicians' offices across the country...the WH, Congress, Mayors, State Assemblies, etc. There is nothing unusual or nefarious about it's existence and there is nothing about its substance that provides the "proof" the GOP/Teatrolls are trying to claim. CNN even admits that the substance of the memo is no different than what was in the thousands and thousands of documents and thousands and thousands of pages of testimony already produced. This is the GOP/Teatrolls jumping on a new document providing old info, all as an excuse to ramp things up for 2014 and 2016. Boehner is now even threatening to form a "select committee" and stick Gowdry (R-SC) in charge of it...dude from SC who publicly flipped out when the NYT published a report that disproved the GOP/Teatrolls' talking points that Al Qaeda was involved in the attack, going so far as to accuse the editorial board of conspiring to help Clinton (i.e., revealing his deeply-seeded focus on using Benghazi to attack Clinton for 2016). The editorial board promptly disproved that accusation as well. It's all a show trial.

    May 2, 2014 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  14. TONE

    Is this a joke? are these idiots for real Benghazi again? I thought this was over, is this another attempt to distract the American people from acknowledgeing the good job numbers? It seem whenever their is good news the Republiclowns scream Benghazi, or IRS.

    May 2, 2014 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  15. nivlac

    God Bless Secretary Kerry and the USA !

    May 2, 2014 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  16. Garbage

    Excellent – Rice, Obama, Hillary and the other trolls in the White House should be next...

    May 2, 2014 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  17. toveri

    this is a lot like repealing the ACA.
    If the Repubs keep bringing it up, the President will eventually make the changes they are requesting
    should be about another 43 tries I calculate

    May 2, 2014 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  18. scoot27

    At the very least they can ask him how far along we are at catching anybody responsible for the attacks.

    May 2, 2014 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  19. Sniffit

    Meanwhile, the GOP/Teatrolls have candidates (the same rainmen perseverating this Benghazi conspiracy nonsense) comparing people who need food stamps to wild, feral animals, but apparently, CNN thinks that's perfectly ok and not worthy of any mention whatsoever.

    May 2, 2014 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  20. greenaxe

    Obama blew his chance to go after Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld as war criminals back in '08 as he felt it was time to "move on". In my opinion that was a huge mistake as it would have set a precedent for future domestic war criminals from repeating the same mistake. These guys should have been made exapmles of.
    Before this whole Bengazi thing, Boehner was running around saying "we need to focus on job creation", but I think the GOP has problems focusing on anything that would actually benefit this nation.

    May 2, 2014 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  21. Clyde

    This administration makes Nixon look like childs play. Everyone in intelligence knew it was a terrorist attack, But Obama sends Susan Rice out coached and prepped to mislead the people into beliveing it was a spontaneous reposne to a video. Why? Because it was weeks before the election and thats how you camaping in Chicago. They say you can take the politician out of Chicago, but you cant take the Chicago out of the politician.

    May 2, 2014 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  22. smith

    @Silence-Don`t worry, Im sure MSNBC and Mother Jones are not even discussing Benghazi. They got Bridgegate!

    May 2, 2014 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  23. J

    To bad nothing will happen to him!! Don't you know our government only makes law's they don't have to follow, just us!

    May 2, 2014 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  24. Bob Ramos

    Kerry should just turn the subpoena over to the DOS for response. If that does not solve the matter, then Obama should just declare executive privilege and instruct him not to testify. That should end this silly matter.

    May 2, 2014 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  25. Have we had enough?

    So, where was the Congressional, specifically Republican, outrage when there were embassy attacks under Bush?

    Oh. That's right. There wasn't any.

    May 2, 2014 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
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