House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has, for the second time this month, subpoenaed Secretary of State John Kerry to testify about his department’s actions relating to the September 2012 Benghazi terror attacks.
Kerry was previously slated to testify before the lawmakers on May 21. Issa lifted the subpoena requiring the diplomat’s presence after the State Department promised that Kerry would testify voluntarily on an alternate date.
“The State Department has told the Committee that they are committed to finding an alternative date in the near future for Secretary Kerry to testify before the Oversight Committee,” Frederick Hill, a spokesman for the panel, told The Associated Press. “As such, Chairman Issa agreed to lift the subpoena obligation for May 21.”
Issa issued a new subpoena Thursday, accusing State officials of “slippery tactics” that made it impossible for lawmakers to get Kerry in front of the committee.
State Department officials had suggested that Kerry’s diplomatic schedule was too hectic to appear before the lawmakers and even urged the oversight Committee to find a “more appropriate witness” on the matter.
“I lifted the subpoena requiring Secretary Kerry to testify on May 21 because the State Department made reasonable arguments for an accommodation and told our Committee they were seeking a suitable alternative date for his testimony on a voluntary basis. But soon after I lifted the subpoena, the State Department back tracked — stating publicly that we should accept ‘a more appropriate witness’ and refusing to commit to making Secretary Kerry available,” Issa said in a statement.
He continued: “With this State Department’s slippery tactics, it’s no wonder our friends in the world are losing faith in us and our adversaries doubt our credibility. The State Department had discussed May 29 as a possible alternative date and that’s when Secretary Kerry will be obligated to appear — further accommodation will not be possible. Absent an assertion of executive privilege, the State Department has a legal obligation to fully and completely comply.”
Issa’s effort to gather answers about the State Department’s handling of the Benghazi attack has been ongoing for more than a year alongside several other House panels. Just this month, House Speaker John Boehner announced that all of the House efforts to investigate the attack would be consolidated into an investigation by Representative Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.).
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) claimed that Issa’s latest subpoena illustrates that the Republican has no faith in the Select Committee set up this month and “calls into question the Republicans’ stated purpose of the Select Committee on Benghazi.”
Pelosi had earlier said that the Select Committee was part of a Republican effort to cover up an investigation by Issa that was going nowhere.
Fellow Democrat and ranking Oversight Committee member Elijah Cummings of Maryland expressed outrage at Issa’s decision.
“Just one week after Speaker Boehner said he wanted a single select committee conducting this investigation, Chairman Issa issued a new subpoena today for Secretary Kerry to testify before the Oversight Committee. I don’t know if this is Chairman Issa’s attempt to reinsert himself into this investigation after the Speaker removed him, but this looks more and more like the ‘sideshow’ and ‘circus’ Speaker Boehner said he would not tolerate,” Cummings said in a statement.
Meanwhile in the Senate, 37 Republican lawmakers called on Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to conduct a review of the Benghazi fiasco in the upper legislative chamber. The Senate Intelligence, Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees have all conducted inquiries into the attacks; but the GOP lawmakers argued that the focus of those investigations has been too narrow.
“Congressional oversight is crucial to understanding what happened before, during, and after the attacks, so we can be sure we do everything in our power to prevent future attacks,” the lawmakers wrote.
The lawmakers said the investigation would serve to bridge “jurisdictional bounds.”
Reid is not likely to act on the letter.