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. rob

    A Secretary of State of the united States has been subpoenaed and CNN buries it in the ticker. The last two days the liberal media has been ignoring this horrible story and the hearings as the Admin and the State dept have continued to lie about it. if you watched the hearings when the military guy testified about knowing almost immediately it was a terrorist attack and never receiving a call to try to do something to save these people was enough to make your skin crawl.

    What the hell were the President, Sec Clinton and Leon Panetta doing during the many hours these people were under attack and fighting for their lives ????? I hope Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta are subpoenaed as well.

    May 2, 2014 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  2. jimmy

    How anyone can think this is anything more than a political witch hunt is either stupid or Republican or both. Go home, its over morons.

    May 2, 2014 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  3. Ron L

    EVERYONE there will be no "smoking gun". What happened here is just a case of American State Department personnel under estimating the danger and risks of the situation. Human more no less. Just like the war in Iraq!!!

    May 2, 2014 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  4. dnokc

    Kerry should fall on the sword for Hillary. It's the least he could do for the team. She took the heat for the president during his reelection so she's been through enough. As for the mother whom gave her son. Read Hillary's comments.

    May 2, 2014 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  5. FLIndy

    And the Repub haters claim the President is divisive! Get over it Repubs...this is such a non-issue in the scheme of things. Instead of acting like one government that cares about our Nation and its people they continually play politics and divide. It's unfortunate that for a short time after 9/11 we were ONE country, UNITED, but that unity was short-lived. The Repubs need to heed their mantra they repeated over & over after 9/11 in that if you disagreed with the President you weren't a patriot and were treasonous. Mistakes happen – heaven knows there were plenty under Bush/Cheney! They need to get over this, find the perpetrators if possible and move on!!!!!!!! If only TREASON was still a punishable crime as many in Congress have been guilty of it since this President was inaugurated.

    May 2, 2014 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  6. sally Bryan

    Daryl Issa is a criminal, and doesn't deserve the position he hold. He is wasting Government money with this, which should be investigated by a committee of its own. He needs to be removed. Im sick of paying taxes so these right wing crooks with their illegitimate investigating the current administration!!

    May 2, 2014 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  7. CryBabies

    I guess the question the WH should consider is, " What difference, at this point, does it make?" Soon to be answered.

    May 2, 2014 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  8. NC Dores

    This is has the distinct stink of Troopergate, and Whitewater...

    May 2, 2014 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  9. JohnRJohnson

    Darrell Issa has made a laughingstock out of the House Oversight Committee, using it is a partisan lynch mob and inventing bogus scandal and bogus scandal.

    May 2, 2014 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  10. CryBabies

    Lynda/Minnesota....shame on theObama Administration

    May 2, 2014 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  11. NC Dores

    The problem with the whole Benghazi faux-issue is that no one cares. No one cares.

    May 2, 2014 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  12. DeDude

    "the mother of one of the men killed is still seeking answers, don't we owe it to her. She gave her son for this country"

    This has nothing to do with what happened in Benghazi or how to prevent similar things from happening again. This is all about trying to use the tragedy for political gain. If they had called a hearing to evaluate why these people were in this risky place and how we could have protected them better, then they could be respected. The fact that politicians and their staff try to protect themselves from the political fallout of a tragic incident is trivial. Why don't we investigate why the sun keep coming up in the east!

    May 2, 2014 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  13. MacNCheese

    " Kerry subpoenaed over Benghazi "


    Why does no one EVER talk about the $300,000,000.00 in Embassey security the GOP filibustered during their filibuster tirade????!!!!

    May 2, 2014 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  14. FLIndy

    @Javanne – Since all this happened on Hillary's watch, why isn't she being subpoenad as well?
    This comment is typical of the Repub head in sand syndrome. She already did testify last year and nothing was proven. So now they are going after Kerry to continue the witchhunt even though he was not even in the State Dept at the time but was a Senator.

    May 2, 2014 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  15. Lynda/Minnesota

    Get over it libs....The MSM has ignored this ( with coaxing by the Administration) long enough. No more stonewalling or double talk from Jay Carney and his ilk anymore. Maybe now we get some forced transparency.

    At any rate, if tabloid journalism is your cup of tea may your future be bright and cheery and may you enjoy what is left of what has become nothing but gutter politics.

    May 2, 2014 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  16. Jack

    Regardless of the issue, as a matter or protocol you invite the sec state to discuss any reasons for not disclosing required information. Or which information they want but are not getting. If he or she does not give satisfactory answers then... and only then... do you go the next route of issuing a subpoena. Issa is now setting precedent for when the Democrats are in power and a Republican is president.

    May 2, 2014 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  17. Vijay

    Entire Republican party need to subpoenaed due to their failure to improve economy and then the jobs.. Vote all out in 2014.

    May 2, 2014 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  18. Concerned81

    What now, keep this thing going until mid term election to bring out the GOP base. I have not heard one valid statement that would have changed the out come. The GOP should have this type of desire to find out what happen in Iraq with the WMDs.

    May 2, 2014 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  19. Portlandtony

    Issa is an obstructionist idiot looking for so called headlines. Anyone who can read both,liberal and conservatives, know what happened in Benghazi several years ago! There were mistakes made...decisions both on the ground and in Washington contributed to the ambassador and some of his staff's untimely demise. Sometimes, especially on foreign soil with armed militias running unfettered throughout an ungoverned state, bad things are bound to happen!.

    May 2, 2014 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  20. Sniffit

    "Why does no one EVER talk about the $300,000,000.00 in Embassey security the GOP filibustered during their filibuster tirade????!!!!

    Because it seriously damages the nontroversy narrative the MSM needs to perpetuate in order to make money off what happened in Benghazi.

    May 2, 2014 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  21. Anonymous

    What is with this "Republican" "Democrat" finger pointing? This investigation is nothing about politics, this is more about the moral capacity of those in office and those that were responsible for the defense of the embassy at the moment. As a HUMAN BEING you should want to have the people that allowed something like this to pay for what has happened to the individuals that died in Benghazi. Quit pointing fingers like children and come to realization that this should be resolved for the comfort of the families that died and to rightfully punish the ones that led to the demise of the Benghazi embassy.

    May 2, 2014 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  22. Nutjob

    I would like to see Issa and the other pubs do something productive for the citizens of this great country

    May 2, 2014 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  23. jimbo

    It's all about the upcoming election! Maybe they should subpoena Bush for 911 Attack!

    May 2, 2014 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  24. CryBabies

    Ron L You're right. Then why not tell the American people that rather than make up a fairy tale to cover their asses? Face the music.

    May 2, 2014 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  25. Nutjob

    The GOP is the Benghazi Party with Fox as their propaganda department. Lets see some positive things done for the people of America.

    May 2, 2014 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
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