WASHINGTON - Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday he's determined to answer any questions related to the deadly assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, as the House Republican leader pushed for more information from the Obama administration.
One day after a lengthy House hearing on the Sept. 11 attack, Kerry told reporters as he traveled overseas that anyone culpable of wrongdoing will be dealt with appropriately. But he's withholding judgment on testimony in Congress suggesting that senior State Department officials were pressured or demoted for objecting to the administration's initial and since-debunked explanations for the attacks.
Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans died when insurgents attacked the facility in two nighttime assaults several hours apart.
Top administration officials first said the attackers were spontaneous protesters, angry about an anti-Islamic video circulating on the Internet. But they later acknowledged the attackers were well-equipped terrorists acting under plans.
Speaker John A. Boehner (R., Ohio) on Thursday asked President Obama to direct the State Department to release internal e-mails, sent the day after the Benghazi assault, that deal with the cause for the attacks.
Boehner told reporters that Republican investigators learned that "a senior State Department official e-mailed her superiors to relay that she had told the Libyan ambassador the attack was conducted by Islamic terrorists." Boehner said the State Department "would not allow our committees to keep copies of this e-mail when it was reviewed."
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R., S.C.) read from the e-mail during Wednesday's committee hearing.
State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell told reporters Thursday the department was following up directly with the House leadership and members about Boehner's request to publicize the e-mails that the committees saw privately.
Boehner and others have sharply criticized the administration's initial description of the Benghazi attacks by Libyan protesters, rather than a planned terrorist assault. Five days after the attack, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice appeared on the Sunday talk shows and cited the protests, statements that have been widely discredited.
National Intelligence Director James Clapper told a Senate panel earlier this year that the criticism was unfair because Rice was "going on what we were giving her." Officials in the intelligence community have said they were responsible for substantive changes in the talking points provided to Rice.
Boehner pointed out that an interim report by Republicans on five House committees suggests otherwise.
"Our committees' interim report quotes specific e-mails where the White House and State Department insist on removing all references to a terrorist attack to protect the State Department from criticism for providing inadequate security," Boehner said at his weekly news conference in the Capitol. While a few House members "were able to review these e-mails, they were not allowed to keep them or share them with others," the speaker said.
"Congress will continue to investigate this issue, using all of the resources at our disposal," Boehner said.