Tension Builds In Congress Over Persistence Of Benghazi Panel

| by Nathaly Pesantez

Upcoming hearings on the Iran nuclear deal and the 2012 Benghazi attacks are causing trouble in Congress, as both events, scheduled to occur quite close to one another, require the participation of a key figure: Jon Finer, Chief of Staff to Secretary of State John Kerry.

The House Select Committee on Benghazi has called on Finer to appear at their July 29 hearing next Wednesday, where they will discuss the State Department's delay in delivering information about the 2012 attacks to them, Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) announced Wednesday.

"Secretary Kerry early in the Committee's infancy designated his Chief of Staff as the point person on the matter," Gowdy said in a statement, according to The Hill. "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."

But the State Department has objected to Gowdy's call to appear in a July 20 letter, given that Finer is occupied with preparing for a July 28 hearing over Iran talks.

"We…have informed the Committee that key department staff on the Iran deal cannot participate in a hearing next week because of their focus on this time-sensitive national security issue," State Department spokesman Alec Gerlach said, according to the National Journal.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the Benghazi Panel's top Democrat, criticized the Committee's request to have Finer testify.

"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 Wednesday statement, The Hill reported.

"This is a sign of the truly misplaced priorities of this Republican Congress."

Gowdy insists that the State Department has come up short the past several times it has asked for Benghazi documents.

"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.

The State Department said it will continue to work on scheduling interviews and providing documents, according to The Washington Times.

Sources: The Hill (2), The Washington Times, National Journal (2)

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