House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) just subpoenaed Secretary of State John Kerry to appear at a May 21 hearing on Benghazi.
In a three-page letter to Kerry accompanying the subpoena, Issa outlines the State Department’s evasiveness with the committee and stresses that “compliance with a subpoena for documents is not a game.”
He noted that when Kerry took over from Hillary Clinton, “the State Department had a well-deserved reputation for obstructing and delaying the congressional investigation of the Benghazi attack.”
Kerry, Issa noted, “pledged to fix it.” Issa notified Kerry a year ago that document requests and other cooperation were still being impeded at the department.
“Little has changed,” he wrote today. “The State Department continues to produce heavily redacted documents to the Committee. Even classified documents, which are already protected from public disclosure, are blacked out. Some categories of documents have been withheld entirely, and no valid privilege has been asserted.”
Issa added that new State Department documents released to the committee only after a Freedom of Information Act request appear to hold “conclusive evidence that your agency attempt to illegally withhold subpoenaed material.”
“I remind you that such contempt of Congress may constitute a criminal offense,” the chairman said. “…The Department is not allowed to delay responsive materials because it is embarrassing or implicates the roles and actions of senior officials.”
The State Department alerted the committee on April 17 that, per the outside FOIA request, they were releasing documents previously requested by the panel that show White House official Ben Rhodes coordinating talking points for then-Ambassador Susan Rice which encouraged an emphasis that the attack was “rooted in an Internet video, and not a failure of policy.”
“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 the letter. “…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.”