WASHINGTON -- The House of Representatives may have created a special select committee to further investigate Benghazi, but that doesn't seem to have dissuaded Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) from continuing his own probe into the 2012 attacks.
Issa, who had already issued a subpoena demanding that Secretary of State John Kerry appear before his Committee On Oversight and Government Reform, announced Thursday that he was issuing a new one, granting Kerry just one extra week after Issa and State Department officials failed to agree on a mutually acceptable date.
Issa had initially demanded that the secretary appear on May 21, but the State Department informed him that Kerry was scheduled to be visiting foreign nations on that day. Issa now wants Kerry to appear on May 29, and in a statement announcing the new subpoena, he disparaged the motives of the diplomatic corps.
“With this State Department’s slippery tactics, it’s no wonder our friends in the world are losing faith in us and our adversaries doubt our credibility," Issa said. "The State Department had discussed May 29 as a possible alternative date and that’s when Secretary Kerry will be obligated to appear -- further accommodation will not be possible."
Democrats on the Oversight Committee accused Issa and the GOP of appearing to be confused in their Benghazi strategy, noting that when House Speaker John Boehner (R) backed the idea of the select committee, he argued it would bring all the investigations together in one place, and help ensure the probe didn't become a sideshow.
“I do not understand what the House Republicans are doing on Benghazi, and apparently they don’t either," said Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the committee.
"I don’t know if this is Chairman Issa’s attempt to reinsert himself into this investigation after the Speaker removed him, but this looks more and more like the ‘sideshow’ and ‘circus’ Speaker Boehner said he would not tolerate," Cummings added. "The House Republicans can’t get their story straight, and they continue to conduct political fundraising off the murders of four brave Americans -- contrary to the pleas of Rep. Gowdy, their own pick for Select Committee Chairman.”
Ambassador Chris Stephens and three other Americans were killed in the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on the U.S. diplomatic mission in eastern Libya.
Both Issa's subpoena and the creation of the select committee came after a freedom of information lawsuit by the conservative group Judicial Watch forced the release of White House talking points drawn up three days after the attacks. In them, an administration official noted that the White House was aiming to emphasize that protests all around the Middle East -- not just in Benghazi -- were related to an infamous YouTube video and not to foreign policy failures by the White House. By then, however, most evidence suggested that the protests played only a limited roll in the Benghazi attack.
The spin document had not been provided to Congress, and the news of its existence prompted the GOP to argue that it showed there was a coverup. Democrats argue that it simply was not covered by the subpoena that Issa issued when he was seeking documents.
Also on Thursday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who also backs further investigation, admitted that it would only be natural for the White House to emphasize causes of the tragic events that were more favorable to the administration, especially with the 2012 election just two months away.
"It is the best political story to be told for the president," Graham told reporters on Capitol Hill. "I'll be the first to admit no administration can be held accountable for a protest based on a video they had nothing to do with that's spontaneous in nature, compared to a pre-planned terrorist attack that they should have seen coming."
"I'll just be blunt," Graham added. "They wanted it to be a protest caused by the video, not a coordinated terrorist attack by an al Qaeda affiliate that undercut their overall narrative."
For his part, Graham downplayed press reports from the scene of the attacks in which participants said they were angry about the video.
"I'm sure people came there after the event," Graham said. "It wasn't a controlled environment."
UPDATE: 10:07 p.m. -- Marie Harf, a State Department deputy spokeswoman, released this statement:
This is now the second time in 14 days that the Secretary of State has been subpoenaed while traveling overseas representing the United States on urgent national security issues. This time the subpoena was accompanied by a headline-grabbing, highly political tweet attacking the integrity of the State Department itself. This is not the way legitimate and responsible oversight is conducted, and it’s a departure from the days when Rep. Issa himself once lamented that a Secretary of State should not be distracted from the work of national security to testify at the barrel of a subpoena. As we have said, and we reiterate today, we will continue to work with the Committee to resolve their request, but we have not made arrangements for a hearing date, and we hope to explore with them whether there are witnesses better suited to answer their questions and meet their needs for oversight.
Ryan Grim contributed reporting.
Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.