House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa announced Friday his intention to subpoena Secretary of State John Kerry to testify during a public hearing in regard to the Benghazi attack that left an American ambassador and three others dead in 2012.
According to Issa, the State Department’s “response to congressional investigation of Benghazi has shown a disturbing disregard for its legal obligations to Congress,” the California Republican representative posted on Twitter Friday.
Issa’s subpoena promise comes one day after retired Brig. Gen. Robert Lovell testified before Issa and the House Oversight Committee, saying U.S. forces “should have tried” to get to the U.S. Mission in Benghazi in time to prevent the deaths of Libyan Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans on Sept. 11, 2012.
“There was a lot of looking to the State Department for what it was that they wanted, and in the deference to the Libyan people and the sense of deference to the desires of the State Department,” Lovell said.
Lovell asserted the State Department was to blame for failing to request additional help, and that it was evident the attack on the mission was a planned assault and not a spontaneous protest, as the administration initially tried to frame it.
“Four individuals died. We obviously did not respond in time to get there,” Lovell said. “The military could have made a response of some sort.”
“It is because the State [Department] has failed to meet its legal obligations that I have issued a subpoena to Secretary Kerry,” Issa tweeted with “#Benghazi.”
“I expect [Secretary] Kerry to identify [documents] the [State Department] is withholding, has delayed, or has simply avoided searching for,” Issa said.
In a Friday statement, Issa went on to explain “these actions undermine our credibility abroad and erode our moral authority.”
However, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon contested Lovell’s testimony and said the general “did not serve in a capacity that gave him reliable insight into operational options available to commanders during the attack, nor did he offer specific courses of action not taken.”
“We have no evidence that Department of State officials delayed the decision to deploy what few resources the Defense Department had available to respond,” McKeon said. “Lovell did not further the investigation or reveal anything new, he was another painful reminder of the agony our military felt that night: wanting to respond but unable to do so.”
House Speaker John Boehner has also called on Kerry to testify before Congress in regard to Benghazi since the release of an email from White House Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes to then-U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice instructing her “to underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure or policy.”
Those instructions steered talking points delivered by Rice on a round of Sunday talk shows alleging the attack on the U.S. Diplomatic Mission in Benghazi was the result of spontaneous demonstrators reacting to an offensive YouTube video criticizing Islam, and not a coordinated terrorist attack. Those statements have since been widely regarded as false and intentionally misleading to avoid public backlash against the administration during an election season.
Both Rice and the administration have since retracted or qualified the remarks to line up with intelligence reports suggesting a planned terrorist attack, but the White House maintained it had little to do with the original talking points. Rice asserted her information came directly from intelligence agencies, despite contradictory testimony by intel community members themselves that their information was warped.
The email was only released through a recent Freedom of Information Act request, and never included in a collection of documents released by the White House last year meant to shed light on the administration response to Benghazi.
South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham called White House officials involved in steering the now-widely debunked talking points as “scumbags” on Thursday, and Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain described the administration’s actions as “a cover-up” on the Senate floor.