Issa clashes with Benghazi auditors

The top Republican investigating the Benghazi, Libya, attacks has asked the authors of a State Department audit to commit to a transcribed interview before testifying in the House.

The co-leaders of last year's independent Accountability Review Board on Benghazi wrote to House Oversight panel Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) on Tuesday demanding a chance to testify after Issa questioned their report. Issa responded Wednesday that he wants them to commit to a transcribed interview with his committee first, just as the State Department whistle-blowers who testified last week did. 

“I appreciate your willingness to testify publicly,” Issa wrote to retired ambassador Thomas Pickering. “However, your response failed to indicate your willingness to appear for a transcribed interview ... [which] would allow Members of the Committee to ask informed questions during a subsequent briefing.”

The back-and-forth comes as the Obama administration and congressional Republicans trade accusations of trying to politicize the deaths of four Americans during the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi last Sept. 11.

President Obama called the congressional probe a “sideshow” during his press conference Monday, while Republicans have accused the administration of changing talking points to downplay the continued threat of al Qaeda-linked terrorists ahead of the election.

Pickering and his the co-leader of the accountability board, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen, are under fire from Republicans for not interviewing then-Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonIntel Dem decries White House 'gag order' after Bannon testimony 'Total free-for-all' as Bannon clashes with Intel members Mellman: On Political Authenticity (Part 2) MORE during their review or recommending that anyone be fired over security lapses in Libya.

Issa over the weekend told NBC's “Meet the Press” that Pickering “refused” to attend last week's hearing, earning an swift rebuttal from the diplomat. Pickering said Issa's charge was “not true” and that he was “excluded” from the hearing.

“At the May 9 public hearing and in subsequent media appearances, some have called into question the integrity of the Board and its work,” Pickering wrote to Issa on Tuesday on behalf of Mullen and himself. “We believe that such criticisms are unfounded and, if left unaddressed, undermine the essential work that the Board has done as well as the purpose of the congressionally-mandated accountability review board process.

"It is therefore important that we be afforded the opportunity to appear at a public hearing before the Committee and answer directly questions regarding the Board’s procedures, findings and recommendations.”