Issa seeks access to 13 State Department officials as part of Benghazi probe

The Republican lawmaker heading the investigation into the Obama administration’s response to the Benghazi attack has asked that 13 current and former State Department officials appear before his committee.

House oversight panel chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) sent Secretary of State John Kerry a letter last week asking him to make the officials available, The Weekly Standard reports. The officials were involved in security staffing decisions or talking points about the attack and include then-secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s then-deputy chief of staff, Jacob Sullivan, who’s now the Vice President Biden’s national security adviser, and former State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. 

“The State Department employees whose testimony the Committee is seeking are critical fact witnesses who are positioned to shed light on what happened before, during and after the terrorist attacks that claimed the lives of four Americans in Benghazi,” reads the letter, according to The Weekly Standard.

The State Department did not respond to a request for comment.

Issa is requesting the officials appear voluntarily for a closed-door deposition. Last week, however, he subpoenaed Thomas Pickering, who co-authored the State Department’s independent Accountability Review Board (ARB) report on Benghazi, when the retired diplomat refused to voluntarily sit down for the deposition. The two have now agreed on a June 3 date for the deposition.

The ultimate target of Issa’s probe may well be Clinton herself, the presumptive leading Democratic candidate for the 2016 presidential race should she decide to run. Republicans have accused the ARB report of shielding her from criticism for security lapses at the U.S. mission where four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed, and of seeking to downplay the CIA’s references to past attacks against the Benghazi compound in their initial iteration of the talking points.

“We have a number of steps that we are taking to get full and complete discovery,” Issa told The Hill, saying the panel doesn’t want to “waste” her time by calling her to testify before they’re ready to ask probing questions.

Please send tips and comments to Julian Pecquet: jpecquet@thehill.com.

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