One would think that Secretary of State John Kerry would welcome an opportunity to talk about anything else other than his own failures, but apparently he’s not keen to talk about those of his predecessor, either. The State Department announced last night that Kerry will not comply with a subpoena from the House Oversight Committee, which demanded an explanation for the failure to produce documentation under a prior subpoena to State. Kerry will be on the road at the time specified, but State offered to make other arrangements (via Drudge):
The State Department said Monday that Secretary of State John Kerry would not appear before the House Oversight Committee on May 21 to talk about Benghazi — as demanded in a subpoena from the panel’s chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.
Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Kerry planned to travel to Mexico at that time and officials would discuss alternative options with the committee.
“We are committed to working with the committee to find a resolution to this that is acceptable to both sides. We were surprised when they didn’t reach out to us before issuing a subpoena for exactly that reason,” Harf said. “And as I’ve noted here, there have been a number of Republicans who themselves, under the previous administration, said a secretary of state should not be subpoenaed.”
State could end up regretting this as an opportunity passed up. Issa has every right to issue a subpoena and expect Kerry to comply, but Issa may have jumped the gun a little, too, by skipping over the niceties of at least inviting Kerry to testify first before going to the big gun of the subpoena. That’s the State gripe in this reply, and the offer to cooperate is an easy play against it. The knock on Oversight is that its focus has been both split between several investigations into the Obama administration and too overtly political for the same reason. This episode adds to the perception.
So why might State regret this response? Kerry might not be anxious to testify before Congress, but he’d do better against Issa than he will against Trey Gowdy, a former prosecutor. Gowdy will head the select committee on Benghazi, which will relieve Oversight of the probe in the near future. Democrats will still claim that the select committee is politicized and talk about “phony scandals,” but this committee will be focused on one task alone — and the panel members will become experts at it. If Democrats don’t participate, then Kerry will eventually be forced to endure nothing but direct interrogation on State’s failure to produce documentation to Congress, as will his subordinates at State. They will find that experience under Gowdy’s governance to be considerably less pleasant than even an Oversight hearing, and potentially a lot more dangerous in the legal sense.
Kerry will be small potatoes in this probe, anyway. The select committee wants to expose the cover-up, but Kerry’s role in that (if any at all) will be minor and ex post facto. This probe aims at the White House and Kerry’s predecessor, and their attempts to cleanse themselves of responsibility just weeks ahead of a national election through fraud and lies.