John Kerry agrees to testify on Benghazi attack
By: Jake Sherman and Edward-Isaac Dovere
May 23, 2014 01:32 PM EDT
House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) on Friday accepted Secretary of State John Kerry’s offer to testify on Benghazi, with a hearing set for 12.
“As the State Department has moved away from pushing the committee to accept an alternative witness, Chairman Issa accepted the secretary’s offer to testify on June 12. The committee looks forward to his appearance,” said Issa spokesman Frederick Hill.
Earlier Friday, the State Department had essentially challenged House Republicans: either have Kerry testify at Oversight or at the select committee.
“He will appear once on Benghazi,” said State Department spokesperson Marie Harf. “They can work out in their caucus how they want to deal with this issue going forward.”
Kerry’s staff sent a letter to Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) stating the secretary would be willing to testify on June 12 or June 20.
When Speaker John Boehner created the special committee a few weeks ago, he hoped it would streamline Congress’s investigation into the deadly killings, but it seems to be making the situation more complicated.
Issa and Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the chairman of the select committee, are now in the position of fighting over Kerry’s testimony.
Harf’s assessment of the situation hits at the heart of what Boehner was trying to avoid. Boehner wanted the special committee to serve as the nucleus for Congress’s investigation into the attack. Previously, the oversight, Armed Services, Intelligence and Foreign Affairs committees all had their own investigations.
What happens from here is unclear. Issa is not known for backing down. A spokesman for the House Oversight Committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Benghazi panel hasn’t hired a full slate of aides.
Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, said, “We’re glad Secretary Kerry will appear at Oversight. Whether he will also be asked appear before the Select Committee will be a decision for Chairman Gowdy in the future.”
Gowdy has not discussed the particulars of his investigation. Kerry was a member of the Senate during the Benghazi attack, but he’s sure to be a sought after witness by Gowdy’s panel. In an interview earlier this week, Gowdy said, “if someone has knowledge surrounding a relevant fact, I would expect the committee to talk to them.”