Kerry Won't Have to Appear Before Rep. Issa's Benghazi Panel

Image: Kerry Won't Have to Appear Before Rep. Issa's Benghazi Panel

Friday, 30 May 2014 04:28 PM

By John A. Oswald

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Saying he won't let Secretary of State John Kerry use an appearance before his panel as a shield against the Select Committee investigating Benghazi, Rep. Darrell Issa on Friday released the former Massachusetts senator from having to show up.

He vowed lawmakers will get the truth and subsequent "cover-up" surrounding the U.S. diplomatic compound in the Libyan city. Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed in the attacks.

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"Seeing Secretary Kerry and others, who have worked to obstruct critical oversight of Congress’ investigations into Benghazi, attempt to use the upcoming June 12 hearing as a shield against the Select Committee tells me it’s time to reassess," the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman said in a statement.

"It’s been disappointing to watch a long-serving former senator, like Secretary Kerry, squirm his way to what I’m doing today — releasing him from the upcoming hearing commitment he made only after we issued him a subpoena," Issa said.

Kerry agreed to testify before Issa's panel only after it twice subpoenaed him.

But soon after, in a move Talking Points Memo's Sahil Kapur called "clever" and "mischievous," Assistant Secretary of State Julia Frifield announced that Kerry's testimony "would remove any need for the secretary to appear before the Select Committee to answer additional questions."

Kapur's analysis, headlined, "John Kerry Pits GOP Against GOP On Benghazi," noted that Issa's panel had been the lead on Benghazi until U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy's committee got to work.

Kapur wrote: "If the new committee uncovers damning evidence of a cover-up or succeeds at embarrassing the White House, it would cast doubt on Issa's capabilities, given the numerous hearings he has conducted since the September 2012 tragedy with little to show for it substantively or politically."

Democrats have accused Republicans of using the attack to score political points against President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time of the attack and is mulling a 2016 White House run.

Issa, in releasing Kerry, said "getting the full truth is what matters."

"The Select Committee is the House of Representatives’ commitment to getting this truth. It will conduct its investigation in the face of an all-hands-on-deck effort by defenders of the principal actors to further obscure the facts. While Speaker Boehner and I had both originally concluded that Secretary Kerry needed to promptly testify and explain why his department had withheld subpoenaed documents, neither of us immediately recognized how opponents of congressional oversight would use this as an opportunity to distract from the Select Committee’s effort.

"I am extremely proud that the Oversight Committee’s investigation led to a bipartisan vote to establish the Select Committee. Our work pierced the original false accounts introduced by senior administration officials in the immediate aftermath of the attack, and gave the American people many essential facts about events prior to, during, and after that terrible night in Benghazi."

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