Benghazi panel schedules hearing with top Kerry aide

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The House committee investigating the 2012 Benghazi attacks announced it has called on one of Secretary of State John Kerry’s top aides to appear next week.

The panel wants Jon Finer, Kerry’s chief of staff, to appear next Wednesday to discuss the State Department’s compliance with the panel’s investigation.

“Secretary Kerry early in the Committee’s infancy designated his Chief of Staff as the point person on this matter,” Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said in a statement Wednesday.

{mosads}“To that point, and after a number of unproductive meetings to ensure compliance with our requests, our Committee met with his current Chief of Staff, Jon Finer,” he added.

The panel made the announcement a day after Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), the committee’s top Democrat, accused Gowdy and Republicans of interfering with the Iran nuclear deal by scheduling Finer to appear next Tuesday, at the same time Kerry is due to testify to the House Foreign Affairs Committee about the agreement.

“Republicans apparently think the State Department’s chief of staff — who spent months working on the historic deal to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon — should stop briefing Congress on the Iran negotiations and testify instead about document productions to the Benghazi Select Committee,” Cummings said in a statement Wednesday.

“This is a sign of the truly misplaced priorities of this Republican Congress,” he added.

A July 20 letter to Gowdy from the State Department said it would “not be possible” for Finer to appear next Tuesday because of his involvement in the Iran talks and that he must focus on bringing Capitol Hill lawmakers up to speed on the deal during the crucial 60-day review period.

Gowdy has long accused State of slow-rolling the select committee’s request for documents, especially related to a subpoena the panel issued earlier this year for the emails from 10 “seventh floor principals” at Foggy Bottom during Hillary Clinton’s time as top diplomat.

“The State Department has used every excuse to avoid complying with fundamental requests for documents,” Gowdy said. “Our Committee has tried asking personally. Our Committee has tried letter requests. Our Committee has tried public hearings with other agency employees. Our Committee has tried subpoenas. While the tactics tried have varied, the results have not. Our Committee is not in possession of all documents needed to do the work assigned to us.” 

He said that three separate transcribed interviews that were supposed to take place this month were “postponed because the State Department could not produce the emails — even from a four month window — before the scheduled interviews took place.”

The former federal prosecutor also said that since he last spoke to Finer, “emails directly related to the Committee’s jurisdiction, in fact unarguably related the Committee’s jurisdiction, have been withheld” by State, a reference to two emails the related to the attacks that killed Americans that were not turned over.

“There is a simple remedy to delay Mr. Finer’s appearance: substantial production to Committee requests, as already outlined to the Department,” according to Gowdy. “If State fails to make this production or if Mr. Finer refuses to come voluntarily, he will be subpoenaed.”

If the hearing takes place as Gowdy envisions, it would be the first time the select committee has met in public since January.

Updated at 7:09 p.m.

Tags Benghazi Jon Finer Trey Gowdy

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