John Kerry will testify before Congress on attack in Benghazi
WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John F. Kerry will testify before Congress next month about the deadly attack in Benghazi, Libya, a one-and-done appearance that the State Department insists is enough to answer questions and means he could avoid the newly formed select committee.
In a letter to the House Oversight chairman, the department said Friday that Kerry could appear on June 12 or June 20 to discuss the Obama administration’s cooperation with the panel in providing e-mails and other documents related to the Sept. 11, 2012, attack that killed US Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
The department said that appearance ‘‘would remove any need for the secretary to appear before the select committee to answer additional questions.’’
In response, Frederick Hill, a spokesman for the Oversight Committee, said chairman Darrell Issa had accepted Kerry’s offer to appear June 12.
The committee had issued two subpoenas for Kerry’s testimony, an unusual step for a Cabinet member that had clearly annoyed the State Department.
The department said diplomatic responsibilities tied to Ukrainian elections, NATO meetings in Brussels, and a presidential trip to Poland prevented Kerry from testifying on May 29, the date of a committee subpoena.
‘‘This second subpoena was issued despite the department having expressed a desire to accommodate your committee’s interests and, like the first, it arrived while the secretary was traveling overseas representing the United States on urgent national security issues and without confirming the secretary’s availability on that date,’’ the department said in the letter.
A copy of the department letter was also sent to Representative Trey Gowdy, Republican of South Carolina, who is heading the special, 12-member select committee and would decide on whether to seek testimony from Kerry, who was a US senator from Massachusetts when the attack occurred.
Republicans assert that the Obama administration misled the American people about the nature of the terrorist attack weeks before the presidential election and has stonewalled congressional investigators.
President Obama has accused Republicans of politicizing a national tragedy.
The administration and Democrats assert that after 13 public hearings, the release of 25,000 pages of documents, and 50 separate briefings over 20 months, there is no new information.
In the 20 months since the attack, multiple independent, bipartisan, and Republican-led probes have faulted the State Department for inadequate security in Benghazi, leading to four demotions. No attacker has been arrested.
The House voted largely along party lines earlier this month to establish a select committee to conduct what will be the eighth investigation into the attack, with House Speaker John Boehner, Republican of Ohio, saying it was critical to ‘‘getting to the truth.’’
Seven Republicans, led by Gowdy, will serve on the panel.