The co-author of the State Department's independent report on Benghazi, Libya, has agreed to be deposed by congressional Republicans on June 3, but is also pressing for a public hearing, the State Department said Thursday.
The announcement comes after House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said Wednesday that he would lift his subpoena mandating former Ambassador Thomas Pickering's appearance. Issa had subpoenaed the retired diplomat after he refused to meet for a closed-door deposition. The California lawmaker said Wednesday Pickering had "voluntarily” agreed to appear and speak to committee staff.
“My understanding is that he continues to consider himself to be under subpoena and will appear in accordance with that compulsory obligation to appear,” said State spokesman Patrick Ventrell.
“We understand that the fact that the deposition has been scheduled does not preclude future discussions between Ambassador Pickering's counsel and the committee about the circumstances and rules for his appearance,” Ventrell added. “So that's something that Ambassador Pickering and his outside counsel have been discussing with the committee directly.”
Pickering has asked to appear for a public hearing after the deposition. Ventrell said the committee should grant him his wish.
“Well, we support Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen's willingness to appear in public hearings and clarify the record, and we hope they'll be given that opportunity,” he said. “But in the meantime our understanding is that Chairman Issa has still opted for a compulsory deposition that is not public.”
Republicans have criticized last year's Accountability Review Board (ARB), which investigated the State Department's handling of the deadly Benghazi consulate attacks. GOP lawmakers have questioned why Pickering did not interview then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and charged that higher ups in the department escaped blame.
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