Secretary of State John Kerry will appear before a congressional committee probing the Benghazi attacks —but not the one created for that purpose.
A State Department official said in a letter to Republican Rep. Darrell Issa that Kerry would testify before the House Oversight Committee, which Issa chairs. Issa had earlier subpoenaed Kerry to testify. A date of June 12th was set for Kerry’s appearance.
Though Republicans have been pressing for Kerry’s testimony, the party’s congressional leadership may not be jumping for joy at the news. House Speaker John Boehner created the Select Committee on Benghazi , chaired by Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy in order to streamline and coordinate the various investigations being conducted into the 2012 attacks, and to ensure the GOP was speaking with one voice. That Kerry will testify before Issa’s panel and not Gowdy’s suggests that effort hasn’t been entirely successful so far.
“We’re glad Secretary Kerry will appear at Oversight,” Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, told Politico, perhaps protesting too much. “Whether he will also be asked appear before the Select Committee will be a decision for Chairman Gowdy in the future.”
That wasn’t the only way in which Issa may have complicated his party’s efforts lately. On Wednesday, Issa released a State Department email showing that one of the White House’s first responses to the attacks was to contact YouTube to warn of the “ramifications” of allowing an anti-Islamic video to be posted on the video-sharing site.
Issa said the email shows that the White House “hurried to settle on a false narrative” that the attacks were triggered by the video, and weren’t a coordinated act of terrorism. In fact, of course, the email bolsters the White House’s claim that in the immediate wake of the attack, it sincerely believed the video was the cause—a belief that turned out to be wrong.
Still, plans for the select committee are slowly taking shape, in the wake of Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi’s decision to name a full slate of members to the panel. Some in her party had urged Pelosi not to name members, in order to deny the committee any air of legitimacy. Gowdy met officially Thursday for the first time with Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the panel. Gowdy also has named an experienced staff director for the probe.
But Boehner cautioned that it could still be some time before the results of the investigation are available. “I wouldn’t expect a lot for a while here,” he told reporters.
Meanwhile, Republicans are still struggling to talk about the committee without putting their feet in the mouths. Allen West, a Fox News contributor and former GOP congressman, said Wednesday of Rep. Tammy Duckworth, one of the Democrats named to the panel, “I don’t know where her loyalties lie.” Duckworth lost both her legs and partial use of her right arm during an Operation Iraqi Freedom combat mission, when the helicopter she was flying was hit by an RPG.
West’s slip-up comes after weeks of mixed messages from Republicans about whether they would use the committee to raise money for their election campaigns.