Cummings backs Benghazi auditors' demand for public hearing

The ARB and its co-authors are back in the spotlight after State Department whistle-blowers testified before Congress last week. 

The board in December delivered a scathing assessment of “systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels” of the State Department. But GOP lawmakers have raised questions about the report, including the decision by the authors to not interview 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 or recommend that anyone at the department be fired.

During a joint appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, Issa accused Pickering of refusing to participate in last week's hearing, a charge Pickering said was "not true."

Issa followed up Wednesday with a letter to the two authors saying a transcribed briefing would enable lawmakers to “ask informed questions during a subsequent briefing.” Pickering and Mullen flatly refused to participate in a response letter to Issa on Thursday.

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, 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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