House Speaker to form panel to probe 2012 attack on mission in Benghazi
John Boehner, speaker of the US House of Representatives, plans to form a select committee to investigate the 2012 attack on the US mission in Benghazi, Libya, escalating Republican scrutiny of the administration's handling of the incident.
Boehner's announcement came as Darrell Issa, Republican chairman of the House oversight committee, issued a subpoena to Secretary of State John Kerry to testify on the administration's response to congressional investigations. That includes White House e-mails that Issa says had been withheld from Congress.
Republicans say the administration has been obstructing the truth about the Benghazi attack, which killed four Americans, including ambassador Christopher Stevens.
"Four Americans died at the hands of terrorists nearly 20 months ago, and we are still missing answers, accountability, and justice," Boehner said in a statement.
The front runner to lead the House's investigation is Trey Gowdy, a former state and federal prosecutor from South Carolina who defeated a Republican incumbent in the primary and then went on win his House seat in 2010. Gowdy has impressed Republican leaders with his aggressive questioning of administration officials.
Issa said the State Department withheld White House e-mails related to the attacks that he demanded both in writing and by subpoena.
The e-mails, released in response to a separate Freedom of Information Act lawsuit from the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch, include one from Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes preparing talking points to use in media interviews about the US response to the Benghazi attacks.
"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 a letter to Kerry.
Marie Harf, a State Department spokeswoman, said Kerry would be in Mexico on March 21, the day Issa wants him to appear, and said Republicans would have known that if they had asked first.
"What we're focused on, and what we think Congress should be focused on, is how to do this better in the future and how to bring those responsible for justice - not playing politics with Benghazi, as they continue to try to do," Harf said in Washington.
Kerry was in South Sudan.