Boehner to appoint select Benghazi committee
(FILES) This file photo taken on September 11, 2012 shows an armed man waving his rifle as buildings and cars are engulfed in flames after being set on fire inside the US consulate compound in Benghazi. A long-awaited inquiry into a deadly militant attack on the US mission in the Libyan city of Benghazi late on December 18, 2012 slammed State Department security arrangements there as 'grossly inadequate.' But the months-long probe also found there had been 'no immediate, specific' intelligence of a threat against the mission, which was overrun on September 11 by dozens of heavily armed militants who killed four Americans. AFP PHOTO / FILES (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
A Libyan man walks in the rubble of the damaged U.S. consulate, after an attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens on the night of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012, in Benghazi, Libya, Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012. The American ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed when a mob of protesters and gunmen overwhelmed the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, setting fire to it in outrage over a film that ridicules Islam's Prophet Muhammad. Ambassador Chris Stevens, 52, died as he and a group of embassy employees went to the consulate to try to evacuate staff as a crowd of hundreds attacked the consulate Tuesday evening, many of them firing machine-guns and rocket-propelled grenades. (AP photo/Mohammad Hannon)
Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, listens as he and GOP leaders meet reporters following a Republican strategy meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 29, 2014. Boehner said Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., did the right thing by stepping down from the the House Financial Services Committee after he was indicted Monday with evading taxes. Grimm told Speaker Boehner he should be removed from the panel but said he plans to return once his legal issues are resolved. (AP Photo)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 01: (L-R) U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Robert Lovell (Retired), former deputy director for the Intelligence and Knowledge Development Directorate (J-2) of U.S. Africa Command and former deputy commanding general of the Joint Task Force Odyssey Guard, Hoover Institution research fellow Kori Schake, Foundation for Defense of Democracies senior fellow Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Middle East Program senior associate Frederic Wehrey testify during a hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee May 1, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The committee held a hearing on 'Benghazi, Instability, and a New Government: Successes and Failures of U.S. Intervention in Libya.' (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 01: U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Robert Lovell (Retired), former deputy director for the Intelligence and Knowledge Development Directorate (J-2) of U.S. Africa Command and former deputy commanding general of the Joint Task Force Odyssey Guard, is sworn in during a hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee May 1, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The committee held a hearing on 'Benghazi, Instability, and a New Government: Successes and Failures of U.S. Intervention in Libya.' (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
A vehicle sits smoldering in flames after being set on fire inside the US consulate compound in Benghazi late on September 11, 2012. An armed mob protesting over a film they said offended Islam, attacked the US consulate in Benghazi and set fire to the building, killing one American, witnesses and officials said. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/GettyImages)
FOR USE AS DESIRED, YEAR END PHOTOS - FILE - Secretary of State Hillary Rodham testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the deadly September attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)
WASHINGTON (AP) -- House Speaker John Boehner on Friday declared he would schedule a vote to create a select committee to investigate the Benghazi attack, escalating a political battle that has raged since the final days of President Barack Obama's re-election campaign.
Boehner said U.S. officials misled the American people after the Sept. 11, 2012, assault on the U.S. diplomatic post in Libya that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. He said emails released this week showed the White House has withheld documents from congressional investigators and asked, "What else about Benghazi is the Obama administration still hiding from the American people?"
"Americans learned this week that the Obama administration is so intent on obstructing the truth about Benghazi that it is even willing to defy subpoenas issued by the standing committees of the people's House," Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement. "These revelations compel the House to take every possible action to ensure the American people have the truth about the terrorist attack on our consulate that killed four of our countrymen."
Republicans have accused the Obama administration of seeking to deceive the public about the true circumstances of the attack during the final months of the 2012 presidential campaign - charges which the president and other U.S. officials reject.
For Boehner, appointing a select committee raises the profile of one of the Republicans' main points of attack against Obama ahead of November's midterm congressional elections, and on former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton ahead of what may be another presidential campaign in 2016. It could also unify the Republican approach, which showed fissures Thursday as two powerful GOP committee chairmen sparred over whether the military was prevented from responding to the attack.
Republicans have pointed a finger at one passage in particular among the 40 or so emails obtained by the watchdog group Judicial Watch through a Freedom of Information Act request. Three days after the attack, Ben Rhodes, then the deputy national security adviser for strategic communications at the White House, stressed the goal of underscoring "that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader policy failure."
The email is dated Sept. 14, the Friday before then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice appeared on the Sunday news programs and explained the Benghazi attack as a protest over a YouTube video that mocked the Islamic prophet Mohammed that was hijacked by extremists. Administration officials later changed their description of the attack and said references to a protest were inaccurate.
White House press secretary Jay Carney responded this week by saying the message was explicitly not about Benghazi but about the overall situation across the Arab world, where American embassies and consulates in several countries faced angry and sometimes violent demonstrations. U.S. officials insisted they've complied with subpoena requests.
Separately, the Republican chairman of the House oversight committee, one of several that have investigated Benghazi, said Friday he would subpoena Secretary of State John Kerry to testify about the administration's response to the attack.
Rep. Darrell Issa said he wanted Kerry to appear before the panel May 21 to explain why the latest emails were omitted from previous administration submissions to Congress.
Issa has been the GOP's most prominent investigator of the Benghazi attack. But his star witness at a hearing Thursday came under sharp criticism from a fellow California Republican, Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, who heads the House Armed Services Committee.
Retired Brig. Gen. Robert Lovell told Issa's panel that U.S. forces "should have tried" to get to the Benghazi outpost in time to help save Stevens and the other Americans. Lovell blamed the State Department for not making stronger requests for action.
McKeon responded by saying Lovell didn't serve in a capacity that gave him reliable insight into the available options commanders had during the attack, and repeated his own committee's conclusions that the State Department didn't delay a decision to deploy military resources and that the military couldn't have made a difference.
Boehner said the latest documents to be released showed "greater White House involvement in misleading the American people" and amounted to a "flagrant violation of trust."
He praised the House investigations up to now but said lingering questions and the administration's lack of respect for congressional oversight required an escalation of the level of investigation.
A separate investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee found the U.S. had insufficient security at the Benghazi post and spread the blame among the State Department, the military and U.S. intelligence for missing what now seem like obvious warning signs. It also faulted Stevens for not ensuring enough protection.
A senior Republican aide said Boehner was considering Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., to chair the select committee. The aide wasn't authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity. It's unclear when Boehner will schedule the vote.