By Molly K. Hooper - 05/23/13 07:47 PM EDT
Members of the House Oversight Committee are getting closer to asking Hillary Clinton to testify on last year's deadly attacks in Benghazi, Libya.
Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) told The Hill that there are “a number of steps” that the panel “will take first” before calling the former secretary of State to the hearing room, but he left the door open to compelling her appearance.
“We have a number of steps that we are taking to get full and complete discovery,” Issa said.
He added that the committee members don’t want to “waste the former secretary’s time” by calling her before they do their full duty in uncovering all the relevant information that could shed light on her role before, during and after the attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Libya.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who led the call for hearings immediately following the attacks on Sept. 11, 2012, said that calling the former secretary of State to testify was a “definite maybe."
The Washington Post reported this week that Petraeus had wanted the talking points released after the Libya attack to include references to previous CIA warnings about threats in Benghazi. Those warnings were edited out during an interagency process that included the State Department.
Clinton has appeared before several congressional committees to discuss the Benghazi attacks, but has not yet been called before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Earlier this month, Issa's panel heard from Gregory Hicks, who was Stevens's deputy in Libya. Hicks's testimony contradicted claims made by Clinton and other Obama administration officials and attracted front-page headlines.
Under Issa’s leadership, and with the help of Chaffetz and former prosecutor Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the Oversight committee has taken a methodical approach to the Benghazi investigation.
Gowdy has played a key role in preparing the GOP committee members to ask direct, focused questions and avoid rushing to judgment before the facts have been established, according to sources familiar with the committee’s hearing prep.
Gowdy, Issa and Chaffetz have been seen in numerous close conversations during House votes and are often spotted leaving the House chamber together.
GOP Rep. Jeff Duncan, a member of the South Carolina delegation, said Gowdy is likely “building a case” before calling Clinton before the committee.
“Gowdy's a good prosecutor, Gowdy's building a case, and when you are building a case, you don't show all your cards [at once],” Duncan told The Hill.
As part of that effort, Issa has secured a transcribed interview with former Ambassador Thomas Pickering, the co-chairman of the State Department investigation into the Benghazi attack.
Pickering did not interview then-secretary of State Clinton during his investigation, arguing the assistant secretary level is where “the rubber meets the road” in the department.
Issa had subpoenaed Pickering’s cooperation for an interview on Thursday morning, but lifted it after Pickering agreed voluntarily to sit down with the committee at a later date.
Clinton pushed back at Republicans who challenged her when she testified earlier this year. Pressed on details of the Libya attack, Clinton said, "The fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided that they’d they go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?"
Democrats have said the hearings on Benghazi are a political witch hunt aimed at weakening Clinton in case she decides to make another run for the White House in 2016.