Updated: 1:08 p.m. | Citing newly uncovered emails they say raise questions about the honesty of the Obama administration, Republicans called Friday for two new probes into the attack on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, with House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa subpoenaing Secretary of State John Kerry to testify before his panel andSpeaker John A. Boehner calling for the creation of a special committee.
The moves came after the release of White House emails that show administration adviser Ben Rhodes coordinating a communications response strategy for then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice. Rhodes included in his email that Rice should emphasize that the Sept. 11, 2012, attack was “rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.”
The emails were released to Judicial Watch after a Freedom of Information Act request.
Issa, who has long been trying to show that the administration covered up a botched response to the attack, charged in a Friday letter to Kerry that the State Department has been trying to “illegally withhold subpoenaed material.”
“The fact that these documents were withheld from Congress for more than 19 months is alarming,” Issa wrote. “The Department is not entitled to delay responsive materials because it is embarrassing or implicates the roles and actions of senior officials.”
The subpoena comes a day after Boehner released a statement calling on Kerry to testify.
“Someone needs to answer why this administration hid these documents — and tell the American people what else is being concealed. The House used its subpoena power to obtain documents, including emails, last year, but these emails didn’t show up until now, after a court ordered their release to an outside watchdog group” Boehner said.
A GOP source familiar with the situation said that though House Republicans have been calling on leadership for months to convene such a panel, its formal inception only came about in the past 24 hours, following an interconference eruption over comments by Armed Services Chairman Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., discrediting a witness called to testify at a hearing on Benghazi held by the Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Thursday.
"I appreciate the service of Brigadier General Robert Lovell and his willingness to testify," McKeon said in a statement released on the same day. "He confirmed what my committee has understood for some time, that the military never believed this was a protest gone bad, and that the President fundamentally failed to posture our forces [to] respond to any emergency in the weeks before [the attack].
"Beyond those confirmations," McKeon continued, "BG Lovell did not serve in a capacity that gave him reliable insight into operational options available to commanders during the attack ... [He] did not further the investigation or reveal anything new."
The source told CQ Roll Call that the comments set off something of a turf war, and leadership saw the need to compartmentalize the investigation going forward.
Emma Dumain contributed to this report.