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. flbikerchick

    January 22, 2002. Calcutta, India, U.S. Consulate. Five people are killed. June 14, 2002. Karachi, Pakistan, U.S. Consulate, 12 killed and 51 injured. February 28, 2003. Islamabad, Pakistan, U.S. Embassy. Two people killed. May 12, 2003. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Armed al Qaeda terrorists storm the diplomatic compound, killing 36 people. July 30, 2004. Tashkent, Uzbekistan, U.S. Embassy, two people killed. December 6, 2004. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia., U.S. Consulate, nine people killed. March 2, 2006. Karachi, Pakistan, U.S. Consulate, four people killed, including U.S. diplomat David Foy who was directly targeted by the attackers. September 12, 2006. Damascus, Syria, U.S. Embassy. Four people are killed, 13, U.S. Embassy. Sixteen people are killed.

    Over 70 killed in attacks on U.S. embassies or consulates, and not a feck was given by the right. Where are the subpoenas, GOP?

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

    Mike Morell, deputy director of the CIA, wasn't sure why Susan Rice attributed the attacks to the video. Military intelligence did not attribute the attack to a video. Stated testimony.

    There was no mention of a video in the talking points. MIke Morelll edited those talking points, he never mentioned the video. The WH came up with the video idea, based on newspapers.

    Bret Baier nterviewed Mr. Vietor, when pressed where the video idea came from, Mr. Vietor stated guys in newspapers. Now we know why the WH blamed the video, based on critical intel, from guys in newspapers. The WH believes that our enormous, expensive, intelligence apparatus doesn't pay attention to newspapers?

    What happened is very simple, it was the anniversary of 911, which everyone seems to forget, and our ambassador was in a hot zone, with AQ camps nearby. It was no video, there was no protest, they knew exactly where the ambassador was, and they came with heavy weapons. We know the rest of this lousy story.

    May 2, 2014 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  3. Sniffit

    "What if it was your loved one that was killed and this administration was covering it up?"

    Sorry, but that question presupposes both that there's something to cover up in the first place AND that there's something being covered up. Might as well ask people "have you stopped beating your wife?"

    May 2, 2014 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  4. Sniffit

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

    Oh yes...they understand it alright. The question is, do they care?

    The answer is no.

    May 2, 2014 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  5. david saint

    if only the GOP put this much effort into getting the truth about the cover up of Pat TIllmans death..instead, they beat this dead horse until theres nothing left.

    May 2, 2014 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  6. Tom

    Interesting, Carney would have us believe that the subject of an email, is not what the email is about. Redacted documents that took a court order to see them, and when we see them, the WH claims it's not about benghazi. They said they only changed a couple words in the talking points, which never, ever mentioned any video. US intel knew the video had absolutely nothing to do with the attack. Remember guys, as you conveniently forget, it was 911, they knew where the ambassador was, and they attacked.

    May 2, 2014 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  7. Drano

    Good, maybe Kerry can ask Issa why he and his party voted to reduce consular security.

    May 2, 2014 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  8. Drake

    I guess Republicans plan to ride this horse until it dies. Maybe they should put some of this energy in new ideas. Like ones that will help the middle class instead of the super wealthy. The fact is that Stevens and his coworkers knew the inherent risks of their jobs and refused extra security.
    What happened to the conservative chant " take responsibility for your own actions" Ha, only when it suits their own agenda.
    Keep trying, will still lose the White House in 2016.

    May 2, 2014 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  9. Sniffit

    "Hilary will never be President"

    Hillary was never even mentioned in this article. The fact that you guys go directly to those talking points, even when completely off-topic, whenever Benghazi is mentioned is a tacit admission that the entire tinfoil hatted Benghazi conspiracy theory witch-hunt is all about 2016.

    May 2, 2014 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  10. Gurgyl

    This is just fabricated GOP bs. Simple as that.

    May 2, 2014 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  11. Me



    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.
    You do realize that the vast majority of the planning and training for 9/11 happened on Clintons watch and not Bush's. In fact I think the FBI also warned Clinton who ignored it and pasted it on to the Bush admin! Neither party's hands are clean when it comes to 9/11.

    May 2, 2014 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  12. rafterman11

    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???

    Ah, that chestnut again. Stop watching movies, where special forces can go into an unknown situation with no preparation and save the day in a matter of hours. That's fantasy, not reality. There was no military help that could have reached them in time. Even when Bin Laden was believed to be found, it was months before they were ready to go in, not hours, like you 'cons expected to happen with Benghazi.

    May 2, 2014 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  13. dina

    Wait, did I miss it when the GOP made such a fuss about the trillions spent in Iraq, the billions "lost" over there, and the hundreds of thousands who died, all on false pretenses? Was anyone even ever subpoenaed?

    May 2, 2014 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  14. Rick C.

    There were 13 embassy and other facilities attacks during the Bush presidency. There were no witch hunts conducted. Why now?

    May 2, 2014 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  15. Papa

    This needs to be investigated. We were lied to and there is an apparent cover up. Everyone should be outraged by this whether they're dem or rep. The only person arrested for this is an American film maker who had nothing to do with it.

    May 2, 2014 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  16. Tom

    I wish the Democrats would start calculating the amount of money wasted on this never-ending Benghazi witch hunt. It seems awfully coincidental that as the whole Clliven Bundy government overreach story collapsed Benghazi reappeared. There is no story here. There never has been.

    May 2, 2014 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  17. critical thinking

    Here is what I know. The bigger the lie, the harder the push back. After all if you didn't lie, what concerns would you have with giving all the information. This onion will be peeled on layer at a time and then everyone will know the truth.

    May 2, 2014 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  18. They ought to change from the elephant to the hippo...

    Dear America,

    This Issa clown is wasting OUR money!! If he hasn't come up with anything concrete by now, there really ISN'T anything or he must be the worst investigator alive! Regardless, he needs to stop.

    May 2, 2014 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  19. ritmocojo

    The fRight wingnuts can't scandal the truth...

    May 2, 2014 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  20. Denise

    21st Century Patriot – I agree. Kerry will make Issa look like an even bigger fool than he is. Same for Obama! He is so much smarter than his opponents.

    May 2, 2014 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  21. Jenna

    Benghazi is a huge topic for some people still. Americans were left to die. Not in a raid that lasted an hour. But an ambush that lasted many many hours. It was 9/11 and election was coming. I am sickened that anyone wh, GOP, democrats make this a political issue. I would like to know who decided not to aid these Americans. I would like to know who made the call that the video was a talking point when the administration has admitted they knew that it wasn't the reason for Benghazi. I would also like to say if it was your family then you would like to know what occurred. Set politics aside. Open the emails. Drop the talking points. Provide a timeline. Be honest and if it's how you say it is then it will go away. My grandma says those who have nothing to hide hide nothing.

    May 2, 2014 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  22. rafterman11

    This needs to be investigated. We were lied to and there is an apparent cover up. Everyone should be outraged by this whether they're dem or rep. The only person arrested for this is an American film maker who had nothing to do with it.


    They have BEEN investigating it for two years now. How much longer is this going to go on without NOTHING being found? Yeah, I know – until November 2016. How convenient.

    May 2, 2014 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  23. Chuck

    With the economy improving, the ACA turning the corner to success, and the unemployment numbers improving, the only dead horse to continue beating is Benghazi, as the republicans have nothing else. Literally, NOTHING!

    May 2, 2014 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  24. scranton

    I thought Hillary said it doesn't matter Americans are dead.

    May 2, 2014 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  25. yep

    Republicans don't have anything else

    They can't point to anything they've done in the last 6 years

    This is all they have, and will be their final legacy

    May 2, 2014 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
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