April 30, 2014
The Honorable John A. Boehner
Speaker of the House
U.S. House of Representatives
H-232 The Capitol
Dear Mr. Speaker:
Yesterday, the government watchdog group Judicial Watch released a new set of documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request directly tying senior White House officials to inaccurate messaging about the deadly terror attacks in Benghazi. Notably, these documents were withheld from a set of e-mails released by the White House last May; now we know why.
According to one e-mail sent on September 14, 2012, then-deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes wrote that one of the “goals” of the talking points under development was “To underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of [administration] policy.”
The newly released e-mails further underscore then-deputy CIA director Michael Morell’s role in coordinating with the White House and Secretary Clinton’s office on significant changes to the messaging. According to one e-mail, Morell “had taken a heavy hand to editing [the talking points]. He noted that he would be happy to work with [then deputy chief of staff to Hillary Clinton] Jake Sullivan and Rhodes to develop appropriate talking points.”
These are just a few of the troubling revelations in the documents Judicial Watch obtained, including how the White House planned to deflect questions about comparisons with Gov. Romney’s policies. Taken together, as CNN’s Jake Tapper summarized yesterday, “The context of Rhodes’ emails is, of course, that President Barack Obama was in the midst of a heated re-election campaign where one of his talking points was that he had brought a steady hand in fighting terrorists, indeed that ‘al Qaeda is on the run.’” Other media outlets are similarly reporting today on these important disclosures that Judicial Watch brought to light. It also was the subject of a heated exchange between ABC News’ Jon Karl and White House press secretary Jay Carney today.
Mr. Speaker, it is now abundantly clear that senior White House staff were directly involved in coordinating the messaging in response to the Benghazi attacks and were actively working to tie the reason to the infamous Internet video, which they knew from the CIA and others was demonstrably false. In short, the administration, specifically the White House, lied about a matter with direct bearing on U.S. national security in order to influence an electoral outcome.
In light of these new documents, it is more clear than ever that a House Select Committee is needed to conduct a comprehensive investigation unhindered by jurisdictional barriers, interview all key administration witnesses, including the White House staff identified in these e-mails, and hold public hearings to explain to the American people, once and for all, just what happened that night and in the days and weeks that followed. As yesterday’s revelation made abundantly clear, we cannot trust the administration to be forthcoming so a Select Committee must have subpoena authority as well. A Select Committee is the only way we can assemble the team of Members and staff, including seasoned lawyers and investigators who have expertise in conducting these types of investigations. Additionally, while White House officials traditionally haven’t agreed to appear before standing committees, there is precedent for them to appear before a Select Committee.
Nineteen months have passed while we have waited for “regular order” to produce meaningful results in this investigation. Instead, today, we still have more questions than answers. We have outside watchdog groups accessing vital information involving the death of an American ambassador at the same time that a congressional committee, constitutionally charged with oversight, is given access to this same information. More than 185 Republicans – around 80 percent of the Republican Conference – have indicated their support for a Select Committee by cosponsoring H. Res. 36. Our conference has overwhelmingly spoken and their message is clear: A Select Committee is the only way to satisfactorily complete this investigation and conclusively determine the extent to which this administration sought to willfully mislead the American people in the weeks leading up to the presidential election.
I am concerned that absent the immediate establishment of a Select Committee, this House will have failed. We will have failed the families of the victims, failed the survivors, failed the CIA agents and State Department employees who have been intimidated into silence and, most importantly, failed the American people.
To date, not a single person in government has been held accountable for what transpired that night and not one terrorist has been captured or killed. While we cannot control how this administration pursues, or fails to pursue, those terrorists responsible for the deaths of four Americans, we can ensure that the American people learn the truth about what happened and which officials should be held accountable.
Mr. Speaker, what further evidence is needed of the White House’s role in bungling the response to the attack and later coordinating the dissemination of intentionally false information?
Frank R. Wolf
Member of Congress