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State Noncommittal on Kerry Honoring House Subpoena

The State Department isn't saying whether Kerry plans to testify May 29. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The State Department would not confirm Thursday night whether John Kerry will appear at a new Benghazi hearing scheduled May 29 by House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, who hours earlier issued another subpoena for the secretary of state .  

State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf said discussions with the House panel are ongoing, but that no agreement had been reached. "This is now the second time in 14 days that the Secretary of State has been subpoenaed while traveling overseas representing the United States on urgent national security issues. This time the subpoena was accompanied by a headline-grabbing, highly political tweet attacking the integrity of the State Department itself," Harf said in a statement. "This is not the way legitimate and responsible oversight is conducted, and it’s a departure from the days when Rep. Issa himself once lamented that a Secretary of State should not be distracted from the work of national security to testify at the barrel of a subpoena. As we have said, and we reiterate today, we will continue to work with the Committee to resolve their request, but we have not made arrangements for a hearing date, and we hope to explore with them whether there are witnesses better suited to answer their questions and meet their needs for oversight." After putting an earlier subpoena on hold because Kerry had a previously scheduled diplomatic trip to Mexico, Issa on Thursday issued a new subpoena for the secretary of state to testify May 29 on the 2012 Benghazi, Libya, attack.  

“I lifted the subpoena requiring Secretary Kerry to testify on May 21 because the State Department made reasonable arguments for an accommodation and told our Committee they were seeking a suitable alternative date for his testimony on a voluntary basis," Issa said in a statement issued Thursday. "But soon after I lifted the subpoena, the State Department back tracked — stating publicly that we should accept ‘a more appropriate witness’ and refusing to commit to making Secretary Kerry available." “With this State Department’s slippery tactics, it’s no wonder our friends in the world are losing faith in us and our adversaries doubt our credibility. The State Department had discussed May 29 as a possible alternative date and that’s when Secretary Kerry will be obligated to appear — further accommodation will not be possible. Absent an assertion of executive privilege, the State Department has a legal obligation to fully and completely comply.” Issa excerpted much of the above statement in a series of tweets on Thursday afternoon, though it's not clear which specific tweet drew Harf's ire.  

Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, has created a new special select committee , headed by Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., to look into the handling of the 2012 attack on diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans.  

   

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