Rep. Trey Gowdy subpoenaed a Pentagon official and alleged he mislead congressional officials. | Getty
House Benghazi Committee Republicans have subpoenaed a Pentagon official to testify next week after Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) suggested the person may have misled congressional officials who were seeking to track down a witness with knowledge of the 2012 attack.
Committee Republicans had been trying to find “John from Iowa,” who called into Sean Hannity’s radio program in 2013 and said he had been a drone sensor operator the night of the Sept. 11, 2012 attack and had seen a video feed.
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In late April, Assistant Secretary of Defense Stephen Hedger wrote a letter to Gowdy stating that the department “has expended significant resources to locate anyone who might match the description of this person, to no avail.”
Gowdy is now questioning whether that was true.
After the defense department provided a list of names of drone operators with potential knowledge of the attack, the committee interviewed “John from Iowa” on Thursday.
“Based on this drone sensor operator’s testimony to the committee Thursday, it now appears the Department had knowledge well in advance of who and where John was,” Gowdy said in a statement Friday.
“Mr. Hedger will now have the opportunity to detail exactly what ‘resources’ he ‘expended’ and how. I look forward to him explaining the serious questions that have arisen with respect to this matter, including whether they are related to incompetence or deliberate concealment of the witness from a congressional inquiry,” Gowdy added.
Hedger has been asked to testify on Wednesday, June 15.
“We are continuing to work with the Committee on this matter and all of its other requests. We have never denied any request of the Committee, and continue to work with them,” Laura Seal, a Defense Department spokeswoman, responded in an email Friday.
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the committee, blasted the subpoena.
“This latest abuse of authority by House Republicans is ridiculous and a desperate distraction from a failed investigation,” Cummings said in a statement. “There was absolutely no reason to unilaterally subpoena the legislative staff of the Pentagon—after ignoring their request for a meeting—except to retaliate against the Defense Department for exposing the Select Committee’s abuses, delay this partisan investigation even further into the election season, and distract from the fact that the Republicans have come up empty in their three-year attack on Hillary Clinton.”
A spokeswoman for Benghazi Committee Democrats said there was no need to interview “John from Iowa” because the Pentagon had already provided the videos he had pointed out.
But Republicans responded that no Democrats showed up for the panel’s interview with “John from Iowa” and another drone sensor operator. (Democrats said staffers did attend.)
“In fact, the operators were able to tell the committee what they were directed to look for, what information they were focused on gathering, what information was relayed up the chain of command and what capabilities the drones possessed. Video footage the administration refuses to let the American people see and briefers instructed what to say cannot do that,” Jamal Ware, a spokesman for the committee majority, said in a statement.
Pentagon officials and Democrats on the Benghazi panel have complained that Gowdy is dragging out the investigation and strapping government resources with incessant and unnecessary demands for more information. Hedger’s late-April letter to Gowdy requested that “you meet with me in order to identify a productive way to help the Committee meet its needs while respecting the current work of our men and women and the resources of our Department.”
Gowdy, in response, has accused the Pentagon of foot-dragging and delaying the committee’s final report, which was expected to be released months ago. The special committee launched more than two years ago.