State Department spokesman Marie Harf’s announcement today about her boss, Secretary of State John Kerry.
With that, Kerry and his deputies have engineered a chance for House Republicans to fight among themselves for the TV time and attention that will come from grilling the top U.S. diplomat publicly about the deadly attack in Benghazi, Libya, that happened before Kerry took his post.
Harf said Kerry is offering to appear on June 12 or 20 before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform. Its combative chairman, Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of California had subpoenaed Kerry to testify on May 27 about why the State Department isn’t producing all the documents he’s demanded on the Sept. 11, 2012, attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
The catch: That means Kerry has no intention of also going before the select committee that House leaders have created to investigate the attack and the Obama administration’s initial. inaccurate portrayal of what took place.
If Kerry goes before Issa’s panel, Harf said, that “takes away any need for him to testify before the select committee.”
While Issa may have first claim on Kerry’s testimony because he’s long pursued the Benghazi issue, House Republican leaders may prefer to save a witness such as Kerry for the new select committee, in part because Issa’s bombastic style has sometimes backfired.
Issa got into a shouting match with Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the committee’s top Democrat, in March for abruptly adjourning a hearing after former IRS official Lois Lerner refused to testify.
Issa, who wanted Kerry to come in next week, says he’ll take the June 12 offer.“As the State Department has moved away from pushing the committee to accept an alternative witness, Chairman Issa accepted the Secretary’s offer to testify on June 12,” spokesman Frederick Hill said in a statement. “The committee looks forward to his appearance.”