Published May 02, 2014
House Republicans were moving on two fronts Friday to dig for answers on Benghazi, with a key committee subpoenaing Secretary of State John Kerry to testify and Speaker John Boehner apparently taking a serious look at appointing a special committee.
One senior House leadership aide told Fox News that Boehner is “seriously considering” appointing such a committee to investigate the attacks, and Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., could be considered to chair it. Another source said an announcement from GOP leaders could come as early as Friday.
If Boehner goes forward with the committee, this would mark a significant shift. Boehner has faced pressured from rank-and-file members for months to form such a panel.
It’s unclear whether the decision is yet final. Some sources told Fox News this is a “done deal” and Republican leaders are about to announce it, while others said it is “close.” The House would still have to vote on such a proposal.
The movement comes after newly released emails raised questions about the White House role in pushing faulty claims about the attacks.
The emails in question were obtained and published by the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch, following a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. One email showed White House adviser Ben Rhodes discussing a “prep call” with then-U.N. ambassador Susan Rice, before she went on several Sunday shows and made controversial and flawed statements linking the attack to an anti-Islam Internet video.
The email from Rhodes emphasized the role of the Internet video — leading to GOP charges that this “smoking gun” shows the White House politicized the tragedy.
The White House maintains the “prep call” was in reference to protests elsewhere in the Middle East and Africa.
On the heels of those documents, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee announced Friday that it has issued the subpoena for Kerry to testify at a May 21 hearing. The chairman of that committee has accused the administration of hiding records following an earlier subpoena.
“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,” Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., wrote in a letter to Kerry.
He added: “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.”
Issa, at a hearing on Thursday, lashed out at the administration over the latest documents. The emails in question were obtained and published by the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch, following a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. Issa said the State Department also told his committee about those emails in an April 17 letter.
Issa claims those documents were withheld from Congress for well over a year. “It is disturbing and perhaps criminal … that documents like these were hidden by the Obama administration from Congress and the public alike,” Issa said at Thursday’s hearing. He claimed the withholding of these documents is the worst transparency violation since at least the Nixon administration.
Before the subpoena was announced, Boehner also called on Kerry to testify before Congress in light of these revelations.
White House officials have pushed back hard on Republican claims that the Rhodes email was a “smoking gun” that proves the administration politicized the attack.
Former White House spokesman Tommy Vietor told Fox News on Thursday that he wished the documents had been released earlier.
“I bet you every single person in that White House wished that email has been released earlier. I wish it too because it tells us nothing new, It tells us what we said privately was what we said publicly, because that is what we thought had occurred,” Vietor said.
Fox News’ Ed Henry, Chad Pergram and Mike Emanuel contributed to this report.