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. llatpoh

    They lied. We always knew they lied. And now there is hard evidence of their lies.
    How could anyone still be in denial (other than O, Rice, Clinton and the rest of the Gang)???

    May 2, 2014 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  2. Nic

    With alllll the terrible things happening in this world, the Republicans are STILL stuck on Benghazi? Don't get me wrong, it was terrible some people lost their lives, but jeeez, move on! Tons of soldiers are killed annually in our wars and they're going crazy about one isolated incident and not highlighting the serious issues this world is facing? You know they're scraping the bottom of the barrel for scandal when they can't find anything else to moan about and are still going on and on over this one incident.. Pre-Hillary smear campaign..gotta keep it in the news to use it against someone..

    May 2, 2014 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  3. CryBabies

    Lynda/Minnesota...Nothing to enjoy here. The Administration has not been transparent, for obvious reasons, and needs to be held accountable for its part in this fabrication.

    May 2, 2014 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  4. stingerhp

    He wont tell anything that isnt already common knowledge.. His pay level is so low that he doesnt know anything anyway.. Tokens are just that, tokens.....

    May 2, 2014 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  5. Bubba Ray

    Ben Ghazi – the best shot the Republicans have in 2016

    May 2, 2014 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  6. jorge washinsen

    Kerry was not in command at that time.Why him?

    May 2, 2014 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  7. Politicalpost

    Are GOP that dumb led by Rep Daryl Issa into Benghazi issue? That issue was brought into play to win 2012 election and now being brought to play against Hilary Clinton in 2016.

    May 2, 2014 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  8. Hugo

    Let's hope they can finally uncover the truth so that justice can prevail. I think anyone with half a brain can see the lies and deceit that were spun around this horrific display of incompetence. For those that want to try to obfuscate the truth with the deflection of funding, perhaps if the Obama's, Hillary and Pelosi could give some of the tax dollars back wasted on vacations, golf games, jet travel and booze they could cover their little gun running operations a bit better.

    May 2, 2014 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  9. JJR

    What lies can Kerry add to the "official" responses like; "what difference does it make" "Dude, that was like two years ago"

    May 2, 2014 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  10. Dave - Phx

    Enough with Bengazi already. Broken record, broken party.

    May 2, 2014 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  11. Chuck

    I really want Palin's view on this. She is such an international authority. I'm sure whatever she says the tea party will believe emphatically.

    May 2, 2014 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  12. ritmocojo

    This fake rage is killing me!!!

    May 2, 2014 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  13. Cedar Rapids

    'scranton – I thought Hillary said it doesn't matter Americans are dead.'
    No, thats what conservatives claim she said.

    'jack2 – 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.'
    Because it being caused by a video does not negate it being an act of terror. All acts of terror have reasons behind them so there is no reason why that one was not caused by a video. It isnt a contradiction.

    'Dan Msiko – The major media ignoring this for FAR TOO LONG.'
    Ignoring it? are you fricking kidding me? in what reality has the media ignored Benghazi? Pick any darn news site and do a search for it and see the endless stories that come up in response. Hundreds and hundreds.
    What are you going to claim next? The media have been ignoring a story about a missing malaysian airplane?

    May 2, 2014 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  14. Bill, Bloomington Il

    who cares about this when we have a traffic snarl in Jersey to talk about.

    May 2, 2014 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  15. Hank

    The POTUS lied to the American people claiming the attack was in response to some amateur video, then persuaded officials to incarcerate the filmmaker. Terrorist are ignored by this administration while they pander to the irresponsible populous.

    May 2, 2014 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  16. ThinkAgain: Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.

    "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."

    October 2012, Utah repub rep. Jason Chaffetz. Soledad O'Brien asked him whether he had voted to cut the funding for embassy security:

    "Absolutely," Chaffetz said. "Look we have to make priorities and choices in this country. We have…15,000 contractors in Iraq. We have more than 6,000 contractors, a private army there, for President Obama, in Baghdad. And we’re talking about can we get two dozen or so people into Libya to help protect our forces. When you’re in tough economic times, you have to make difficult choices. You have to prioritize things.”

    Sounds to me the folks who need punishing are all the repubs who voted to cut funding ...

    May 2, 2014 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  17. Hogan's Goat

    Poor old GOP. This is ALL they have now: the weird fantasy that our president sends hit men after our ambassadors.

    How long can they keep pushing this stuff at the old farmers who still vote for them before even they wise up? I mean, five minutes on google shows you the Joint Chiefs of Staff made the call after Paul Ryan's committee cut funding for more embassy guards, end of story. Even Grampaw is going to figure this out one day.

    May 2, 2014 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  18. Malory Archer

    The POTUS lied to the American people claiming the attack was in response to some amateur video, then persuaded officials to incarcerate the filmmaker


    Yeah, except no. The "filmmaker" was "incarcerated" for violation of probation for bank fraud.

    May 2, 2014 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  19. ThinkAgain: Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.

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

    The complete quote – which you've never heard because you listen to those liars at fox:

    With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided that they’d they go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?

    It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator.

    Now, honestly, I will do my best to answer your questions about this, but the fact is that people were trying in real time to get to the best information. The IC has a process, I understand, going with the other committees to explain how these talking points came out. But you know, to be clear, it is, from my perspective, less important today looking backwards as to why these militants decided they did it than to find them and bring them to justice, and then maybe we’ll figure out what was going on in the meantime.

    May 2, 2014 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  20. Malory Archer

    What can there possibly be left to talk about here. Are they really going to try to keep this farce going all the way to 2016?


    Yes. Yes they are, and then they'll attempt to impeach President Clinton for it in 2017

    May 2, 2014 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  21. April Newt

    Benghazi,, a hired hit to take the President of the U.S. down. Someone has to answer as to why this manuever was unsuccessful. When was the last terrorist attack against the U.S.? Why would the hit take place just before elections and who was to benefit from the lost most? I doubt this hit was by Muslim terrorist just like Sudaam Hussien didn't have weapons of mass destruction. WMD'S didn't exist masses of lives were lost and the hired hand paid no price for the lives of many American's lost.

    Think PEOPLE..all the propanda is BS. You believed their stories and manipulations then and you are doing it now. When will the ignorance, hate, and violence stop. It doesn't take make to put things together to determine what exactly happened here and who the real TERRORIST ARE!

    May 2, 2014 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  22. ThinkAgain: Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.

    @Chuck: "Boy the liberals are scared today, just read all their silly posts."

    Typical repub/tea bag: can't handle the truth.

    May 2, 2014 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  23. ThinkAgain: Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.

    Let's see is CNN will post this:

    Why isn't Issa and Boehner opening investigations into why Bush ignored the August 6, 2001 President Daily Briefing specifically warning about al Qaeda attacking the U.S. using airplanes?

    May 2, 2014 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  24. Hogan's Goat

    "Benghazi" is usually translated as "Why aren't there any real scandals?" I guess the GOP doesn't really have much choice about what kind of rotten chum the sharks they are feeding prefer. They toss out a bunch of bait and see which kind the low-info voters eat up, and then they toss out more of that, and they chase away two voters for every moonshiner and ex-con who signs up for the Benghazi Train.
    May I suggest that being swept into office by a mob might be as deadly as it sounds these days, and that perhaps you GOP fellas would prefer living out your retirements in a country where the lights are still on and they aren't hated by millions? They returned from the ride with the lady inside and the smile on the face of the tiger.

    May 2, 2014 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  25. WOW

    Too bad we can't subpoena those elected officials that decided to cut the budget at state....or the ones't that decided private security should replace the USMC in protecting our people. Instead of conducting a witch hunt to find someone to blame when they them selves should be sharing the blame...but that would mean taking responsibility something Republicans and Tea Party members a like aren't very good at. They are how ever good at dividing the country.

    May 2, 2014 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
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