By Julian Pecquet - 05/16/13 02:14 PM EDT
The co-leaders of the independent audit into the Benghazi attack have categorically refused to meet with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) for a private interview.
Thomas Pickering and Michael Mullen called the proposed closed-door proceeding an “inappropriate precondition” to their testifying before the committee in a letter sent Thursday to Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight panel. The letter was made public by the State Department.
Republicans have attacked the ARB for choosing not to interview then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or recommend that anyone at the State Department be fired in their report last year. The board in December delivered a scathing assessment of “systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels” of the State Department.
The ARB and its co-authors are back in the spotlight after State Department whistle-blowers testified before Congress last week. Issa accused Pickering of refusing to participate in the hearing, a charge Pickering said was “not true” during the two men's joint appearance on NBC's “Meet the Press” this past weekend.
The back and forth comes as the Obama administration and congressional Republicans trade accusations of trying to politicize the deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans killed during the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, last Sept. 11.
Republicans have accused the administration of changing talking points to downplay the continued threat of al Qaeda-linked terrorists ahead of the election. President Obama called the congressional probe a “sideshow” this week, and the White House released 100 pages of internal emails detailing the talking points process late Wednesday in a bid to defuse the allegations.
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