House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa on Friday dropped his panel's subpoena for a June 12 hearing with John Kerry to answer questions about Benghazi, clearing the way for the secretary of State to be questioned by the new House select committee headed by Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C.
Issa, R-Calif., in a statement announcing the move, said he felt Democrats would use the Oversight and Government Reform hearing to "distract" from the efforts of the Gowdy panel, which has been charged by House Speaker John A. Boehner with getting to the "truth" of the Sept. 11, 2012, terror attack in Libya that killed four Americans.
“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," Issa said. "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."
Kerry and the State Department have said if the secretary appeared before the Issa panel, there would be no need or inclination to appear before the select committee. Issa had said previously he intended to continue with Oversight's ongoing investigation into Benghazi, but in Friday's statement, he seemed to hand the ball off to the new select committee:
"No matter how long the investigation of a terrorist attack that killed four Americans takes, 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. As much as we fought to learn what we could, bring critical witnesses forward, and shame the Administration into disclosing more than it originally intended, I expect the Select Committee’s unified jurisdiction will afford it better access to the complete picture than any of its investigative predecessors. In attempting to cover up documents like the September 14 e-mail from Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, President Obama, Secretary Kerry, and other officials have no one but themselves to blame for the increased scrutiny they should soon expect."