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. sly

    Republicans have Benghazi blood on their hands.

    3 times they rejected President Obama's specific request to increase security funding for the Libya embassy.

    GOP – you should be ashamed of yourselves, and there are a lot of House Republicans who are guilty of murder.

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

    people, Kerry is not smart enough to know anything. why would Mr. Obama's group trust him!

    May 2, 2014 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  3. mike

    The GOP should run on Benghazi worked so well the first time.

    May 2, 2014 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  4. Luc

    GOP can keep trying to prove that Hillary did something wrong that is what this is all about. Hear this she will win POTUS by an even bigger margin than Obama did against Mitt. Please give up now and really get to work on moving the country forward.

    May 2, 2014 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  5. Joan

    Things are looking better and better for the economy so it is time for the Republicans and the media to spike up some controversy and bring back the Benghazi attack. Perhaps it is time to also revive the IRS and Fast and Furious "scandals". By the way, how much money has Issa spent on "go nowhere" investigations since he has been in charge? Just wondering.

    May 2, 2014 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  6. rino

    We have so many problem and Issa can only work on Bengazhi?

    May 2, 2014 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  7. Ace

    It's like a bad movie with no end in sight, and no popcorn.

    May 2, 2014 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  8. Bill Davis

    These Republican fools never stop. Kerry was a Senator when this happened....

    May 2, 2014 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  9. Desel

    Where was the outrage from the party of NO when G.W. Bush and Mr. Cheney took the U.S. into Iraq based on lies?
    Where was the call for investigations? Any loss of life of American life is unfortunate but nearly 4500 U.S. soldiers loss their lives not to mention tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians were killed based on lies. Mr. Issa and his Republican
    colleagues are nothing but hypocrites.

    The GOP can do everything that they can think of to bring Hillary Clinton down. But, if Secretary Clinton decides to run for president in 2016 she will be the 45th president and the first female president of the United States regardless of any fabricated trash the GOP comes up with.

    May 2, 2014 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  10. Matt Norris

    The problem with Benghazi is the same as the problem with Fast and Furious is the same as the problem with Iraq is the same as the problem with the NSA scandal. Total lack of government transparency, which has largely and repeatedly been the case since the end of World War II. Every single time something comes up involving leadership withholding facts, it turns out to be the case that it's because the facts don't paint a pretty picture of leadership. When is U.S. leadership going to learn that the internet hides nothing, and will they do the correct thing and not intentionally conceal what is available on the internet.

    You know those "targeted advertisements" you get on the internet that are based on your location or browsing history? The problem is that the same technology principles can be used to propagandize you or withhold information from you. The U.S. government had better get over its problem with dishonesty, quickly. The U.S. government, if it wants to be a pioneer in international relations, should try taking a position of honesty (for once) and letting the cards fall as they will when facts are present.

    May 2, 2014 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  11. stevetall

    Issa, you are a pathetic excuse for a lawmaker, and you have a lot of way more important things to be doing right now. How about trying to do something that will benefit the citizenry? Of course, as a criminal yourself, you may not know this. Please consider another job, one you can handle. You're embarrassing us.

    May 2, 2014 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  12. Tony

    Sniffit, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with a public relations campaign. I do know what the Republicans are doing with Benghazi. You know it, and I know it. Most of people on this blog know it But sometimes you need to state the obvious, because there are people out there who refuse to acknowledge the obvious.

    May 2, 2014 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  13. Luc

    Tony correction Bush went into Iraq for one reason only to finish what his father didn't finish that is it. He just needed an excuse to do it. Pick one 9/11, weapons of mass destruction. neither one mattered to Bush he was going anyway

    May 2, 2014 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  14. liberal disease

    lets see this blow hard it!!

    May 2, 2014 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  15. tayllor1234

    Good, since the white house has nothing to hide and is only doing the will of the people there should not be a smidgeon of trouble here. I love transparency of a government for the people by the people.

    May 2, 2014 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  16. Cedar Rapids

    Are they still on this? For crying out loud.
    You can keep badgering all you like GOP but there is no sudden revelation coming. You cant find something that doesnt exist.

    May 2, 2014 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  17. Jon

    Issa is just a big crook with money to burn. He needs to go away with all of his foolish blatherings. Just another politician with a big mouth.

    May 2, 2014 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  18. 1776usa2016

    To the GOP everyday is

    Benghazi Groundhog Day


    May 2, 2014 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  19. Phil

    What difference at this point, does it make???

    Seriously though, and now we also have a Select Committee for Benghazi! What a great day for the USA

    May 2, 2014 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  20. Rob

    Good. Select congressional committee too. There was a massive coverup here that was actually quite inept. It was obvious that Obama and Clinton were lying to the world for weeks. The only reason they have gotten away with it so far is due to MSM lack of interest in anything that reflects poorly on Dear Leader. That's actually the biggest scandal going on. They practically give Obama a combat medal for OBL but no blame when he goes AWOL while Americans are slaughtered. Everyone trying to play this down deserves the fate of those 4 Americans and that includes Elijah Cummings who also wants to shut down IRS probe. Filthy dirty.

    May 2, 2014 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  21. Dan

    Republicans are just going nuts over the fact that significantly fewer Americans have been killed under Obama's watch, and Clinton's watch, than during Bush's watch. And that Obamacare is being successful. And that Obama got bin Laden.

    It's fun to watch them implode.

    May 2, 2014 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  22. Pinkerton

    The President had nothing to do with it. I have had enough, now they claim there are tapes that show the administration mislead the american people and covered it up. It was a third rate burglary that happened over a year ago.

    May 2, 2014 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  23. SB

    Issa's first question will be "Mr. Kerry, why didn't you do anything to prevent the attack that happened 6 months before you became Secretary of State?" Then Kerry will respond, "I don't understand how..." and then Fox will run a sound clip of him saying "I don't understand" over and over again saying that he doesn't understand why Benghazi was a big deal.

    May 2, 2014 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  24. rs

    So, the small inconvenient facts are:
    1. Kerry was not Secretary of State when the events in Benghazi unfolded.
    2. The events in Benghazi were driven not by the State Department, but by the CIA.
    3. The "smoking Gun" memo that the GOP has gripped so desperately to simply says "this is what the CIA says happened, it was a CIA operation".
    4. Even IF there is anything to the failures in security for American personal in Benghazi, the GOP MUST explain why the lives of these 4 men are of such intrinsic value to be investigated at such a granular level over the 12 events and 60 deaths of State Department personal as occurred under Mr. Bush- which simply proves that is is politics and party, not real interest or concern.

    This is simply the GOP hoping yet again they have evidence of some sort of American failure they can politicize.
    Their actions are: sick, un-American, and not the actions of patriots.

    May 2, 2014 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  25. Hilary will never be President

    There are so many skeletons in Hilary's closet (including her sexual orientation) there's no way she'll become President. Benghazi is just one of many snafus she has tried to side-step.

    I say Hilary runs at her own peril. Too many people want to take her down and humiliate her. She has stepped on too many people to get where she is (what politician hasn't?). Stuff will get leaked out. Mark my words.

    May 2, 2014 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
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