U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry gives a thumbs up before boarding his plane in Mexico City Thursday en route to Washington, D.C. / CAROLYN KASTER, AFP/Getty Images
Secretary of State John Kerry and the House oversight committee investigating the deadly 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, said Friday that he will testify before the panel on June 12.
The committee had issued a subpoena ordering him to appear on May 29. But in a letter to committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the department said diplomatic responsibilities prevent Kerry from testifying on that date and offered alternative dates of June 12 or 20.
Issa said his committee has accepted Kerry's offer to testify on June 12. "The committee looks forward to his appearance," he said in a statement.
The department said Kerry's testimony should be sufficient and "would remove any need for the secretary to appear before the select committee to answer additional questions."
However, Amanda Duvall, a spokeswoman for Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., chairman of a separate House Select Committee on Benghazi, said the committee will obtain the testimony of witnesses as needed. The committee was recently created to replace all other House investigations into the deadly attack in Libya.
"The Benghazi Select Committee will talk to all material witnesses as many times as necessary to discover all relevant facts and answer all relevant questions in a manner consistent with fair practice and respectful of the witnesses' other responsibilities," Duvall said.
The department asked Issa to withdraw the May 29 subpoena, which it said "was issued despite the department having expressed a desire to accommodate your committee's interests."
The May 29 subpoena date comes too close to Sunday's presidential elections in Ukraine, with which Kerry "will be fully occupied," the letter said.
Issa seeks Kerry's testimony on the Obama administration's handling of committee requests for e-mails and other documents related to a terror attack on the U.S. post on Sept. 11-12, 2012, that resulted in the death of the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three other State Department employees.
Issa issued the subpoena after conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch obtained details of an e-mail by Ben Rhodes, then-strategic communications adviser at the White House, discussing how then U.N. ambassador Susan Rice should discuss the attack publicly.
The e-mail at issue urged Rice to focus on an anti-Muslim Internet video as the cause of disturbances and protests across the Muslim world, the White House said. But Issa counters that it was intended to downplay a terror attack in Benghazi during a re-election campaign in which President Obama was promoting his defeat of al-Qaeda.
The e-mail "attempted to orchestrate a campaign to 'reinforce' President Obama and to portray the Benghazi consulate terrorist attack as being 'rooted in an Internet video, and not a failure of policy,'" Issa wrote in the subpoena.
Democrats, such as Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, say Republicans' questions on Benghazi have been answered in the hundreds of hours of depositions and thousands of documents already shared with congressional investigators.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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