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.

[twitter-follow screen_name='politicalticker'][twitter-follow screen_name='danadavidsenCNN']

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. Anonymous


    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.

    From your average Dimocrat. Believe me, the majority of them are just like this one. Scary isn't it.

    May 2, 2014 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  2. Randy, San Francisco

    If only Republicans showed the same passion for the truth about WMDs in Iraq, thousands of brave Americans would not have been injured or killed.

    May 2, 2014 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  3. hkirwin


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

    This time without the Obama lies maybe a winner.

    May 2, 2014 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  4. Duck Fallas

    They should investigate Issa's haircut.

    May 2, 2014 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  5. Kerry is a neanderthal, just like every other liberal

    It's amazing to me that people like John Kerry can rise to power. The same can be said about George Bush.

    May 2, 2014 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  6. feckless

    Hey why don't you subpoena Bush for being AWOL from the TX Air Natl. Guard while patriots like Mr. Kerry were getting shot at in Vietnam?

    Why not subpoena Condoleeza Rice regarding her felonious lie to congress in 2001 "these aluminum tubes can only be used for uranium enrichment"?

    The GOP are terrorists.

    May 2, 2014 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  7. jboh

    Issa should be impeached for abuse of power. The guy is corrupt.

    May 2, 2014 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  8. Me


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

    May 2, 2014 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  9. Linda

    Why are all you so opposed to an investigation? What if it was your loved one that was killed and this administration was covering it up? People need to be held accountable for their actions or lack of actions. This is the same administration that identified Seal Team 6 as the ones that took out Bin Laden. The operation that got him was in the works way before Obama took office. But the Obama administration made sure they took credit for the operation and outed the team knowing this put a target on them and got them all killed. I suppose this is Ok with you all also. This administration will go down in history as the worst and most damaging to the country ever.

    May 2, 2014 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  10. ed

    As an independent I'm appalled by both parties, but the Benghazi coverup of the reason behind the deaths of our American brothers is worse than Watergate. There were no deaths with Watergate. There's been such a lack of response from Barack to punish those responsible that he seems like a leader of some other country, not the USA. What is he doing? Why does he stick up for religious terrorists? He has made US the enemy of the new Egypt by his support for the Muslim Brotherhood. He seeks friendship with radicals unstead of keeping the USA strong. He has weakened the USA so much. It's so sad to see how destructive his foreign policy has been. We needed to bring home our troops from many places to shore up other areas and yet under Barack there's been more our our soldiers killed in Afghanistan than under Bush. He's a failure as Commander and Chief.

    May 2, 2014 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  11. radar8

    That's right GOP. Don't work on job bills, or infrastructure bills. Americans don't want jobs and safe roads and bridges and clean water and air. We want dozens of more witch hunts just so that you can try to get back in power.

    Do your jobs . enough with the fake shock.

    May 2, 2014 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  12. yeahright


    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.

    Not only that, but where was the outrage over 3000 people killed on our own soil because of ignored intelligence? The FBI warned the Bush administration about Arab flight school students and urged a nationwide review of flight schools months before the 9/11 attacks. "You've covered your a$$ now" is not a valid response to a FBI threat warning. Investigate that Mr Issa.

    May 2, 2014 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  13. Lynda/Minnesota

    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.

    Yes to all of the above. Things are certainly a hell of a lot better than they were during the 2007-2008 time frame.
    Going nowhere is all that GOPerville has left in its bubble of talking point blather. Which is exactly where GOPerville is. Going nowhere. Unfortunately, they've taken America along for the nowhere ride and quite frankly don't deserve the pat on the backs CNN throws their way day after day.

    May 2, 2014 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  14. Denise

    Did you see the look on Romney's face in the presidential debate when he brought up Benghazi? That was priceless! So was the look on his fat wife's face when they lost the election!

    May 2, 2014 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  15. MaryM

    And Ambassador Stevens Father is sick and tired of his son be used as a Political Pawn. Do you understand that republicans.

    May 2, 2014 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  16. Sniffit

    "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. "

    Sooooooo, yeah, guys do realize that the fact that you bring up Clinton any time there is even the slightest mention of Benghazi is a tacit admission that the GOP/Teatrolls entire tinfoil hatted Benghazi conspiracy witchhunt is about trying to smear her for 2016, don't you? She's not even mentioned in this article and yet you go straight to that talking point. Pretty much says it all.

    May 2, 2014 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  17. flbikerchick

    January 22, 2002. Calcutta, India. Gunmen associated with Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami attack the U.S. Consulate. Five people are killed.

    June 14, 2002. Karachi, Pakistan. Suicide bomber connected with al Qaeda attacks the U.S. Consulate, killing 12 and injuring 51.

    October 12, 2002. Denpasar, Indonesia. U.S. diplomatic offices bombed as part of a string of "Bali Bombings." No fatalities.

    February 28, 2003. Islamabad, Pakistan. Several gunmen fire upon the U.S. Embassy. Two people are killed.

    May 12, 2003. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Armed al Qaeda terrorists storm the diplomatic compound, killing 36 people including nine Americans. The assailants committed suicide by detonating a truck bomb.

    July 30, 2004. Tashkent, Uzbekistan. A suicide bomber from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan attacks the U.S. Embassy, killing two people.

    December 6, 2004. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Al Qaeda terrorists storm the U.S. Consulate and occupy the perimeter wall. Nine people are killed.

    March 2, 2006. Karachi, Pakistan again. Suicide bomber attacks the U.S. Consulate killing four people, including U.S. diplomat David Foy who was directly targeted by the attackers. (I wonder if Lindsey Graham or Fox News would even recognize the name "David Foy." This is the third Karachi terrorist attack in four years on what's considered American soil.)

    September 12, 2006. Damascus, Syria. Four armed gunmen shouting "Allahu akbar" storm the U.S. Embassy using grenades, automatic weapons, a car bomb and a truck bomb. Four people are killed, 13 are wounded.

    January 12, 2007. Athens, Greece. Members of a Greek terrorist group called the Revolutionary Struggle fire a rocket-propelled grenade at the U.S. Embassy. No fatalities.

    March 18, 2008. Sana'a, Yemen. Members of the al-Qaeda-linked Islamic Jihad of Yemen fire a mortar at the U.S. Embassy. The shot misses the embassy, but hits nearby school killing two.

    July 9, 2008. Istanbul, Turkey. Four armed terrorists attack the U.S. Consulate. Six people are killed.

    September 17, 2008. Sana'a, Yemen. Terrorists dressed as military officials attack the U.S. Embassy with an arsenal of weapons including RPGs and detonate two car bombs. Sixteen people are killed, including an American student and her husband

    Where are the subpoenas, GOP?

    May 2, 2014 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  18. rafterman11

    Kerry was still in the Senate during Benghazi, he wasn't part of the Obama administration. In other words, call Kerry to make it look the whole administration was involved and hope people won't know the difference who was in office when. Issa's witch hunt is the thing that should be investigated.

    May 2, 2014 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  19. SoCalMatt661

    Nothing but a witch-hunt.......move along everyone, nothing to see here. Again, the GOP's consciousness only surfaces when trying to get ahead of another or take votes away.......their true motive has nothing to do with doing the right thing. So corrupt and obvious.

    May 2, 2014 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  20. woodlander2

    Hiliary got that 3 am call from Benghazi, Libya and she hesitated providing the green light to the military to help and four brave Americans died and it could have been worst. After the attack, according to then UN Ambassador Susan Rice, she was to distraught to face the media. This is a potential leader of the free world and Commander in Chief???

    May 2, 2014 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  21. JC

    I never understand the political back and forth over this and other issues. We are at war. Regardless or if you agree with its motive or the fact that we are there, we are at war. Unfortunately people die in war. These politicians that sit in their nice and comfortable offices continue to ask questions that they don't need the answer. The military is spilling blood for a country not of politicians, but for their families that they leave at home. My response to these politicians is if you want to actually know what goes on at war, you should volunteer to go see it, stop discouraging your kids and grandkids to not enlist, and see what it is actually like for a family to make that leap and defend a country- sometimes that does come with the price of a life and that is unfortunate.

    May 2, 2014 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  22. Sniffit

    "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."

    Fair enough. Perhaps I misread your comment as suggesting that this kind of memo is wrong in the first place. They're quite clearly not and I'm glad I was wrong and that we actually do agree on that.

    So it comes down to the substance of what the memo says, not just it's mere existence, and since it was talking in general terms about the protests across the muslim world, not specifically and only about Benghazi, it really doesn't prove anything whatsoever in terms of the GOP/Teatrolls' frothing-at-the-mouth accusations. Reading comprehension, however, isn't the GOP/Teatrolls' strong suit: you can tell every time they open their mouths about the Constitution.

    May 2, 2014 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  23. Javanne

    Since all this happened on Hillary's watch, why isn't she being subpoenad as well?

    May 2, 2014 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  24. Trollinfortruth

    There is no way anyone could have thought that on the 9/11 anniversary, in a Country as secure as Libya would anyone think our Americans would be in danger. Duh. Everyone knows that youtube is HUGE in the muslim world. You know how many of the muslims followed the teenagers eating cinnamon? A bunch! So in wasn't 9/11 , or trading arms to was a Youtube video! Now can we get back to real storys that matter. George Bush.

    May 2, 2014 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  25. 21st Century Patriot

    The only good thing about this subpoena is the intellectual TKO Kerry could inflict on that idiot Issa and his kangaroo court faux-investigation.

    May 2, 2014 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15