From CNN Foreign Affairs Reporter Elise Labott
Secretary of State John Kerry had a message for lawmakers he suggested were harping on the Obama administration’s response to the September 11 raid on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi: let’s move on.
“Let’s get this done with, folks,” Kerry told the House Foreign Affairs Committee in his first appearance before Congress since taking office. “"I do not want to spend the next year coming up here talking about Benghazi."
Seven months after the attack, which killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, Kerry faced sharp questions from Republican lawmakers over security at the Benghazi facility leading up to the attack and in the immediate aftermath.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California suggested the Obama administration lied to Congress about details related to the attack and is “attempting to stonewall progress” on a Congressional investigation by withholding requested documents.
Rep. Ed Royce, a Republican from California who is the chairman of the committee, took issue that officials who have been criticized for their handling of the issue remained on the State Department payroll, while Rep. Mo Brooks, a Republican from Alabama, spoke about “false statements” about the attack by U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice.
Kerry countered that administration officials involved in the Benghazi incident already testified eight times before Congress, briefed congressional leaders roughly 20 times and submitted about 25,000 pages of related documents. His predecessor, Hillary Clinton, testified for five hours.
“I don’t think anybody lied to anybody,” Kerry said.
Kerry said the United States was making progress in implementing the security recommendations of an independent panel which investigated the Benghazi attack and that the Obama administration has fingered individuals it believes were involved in the attack. He did not say, however, whether any arrests were made.
“We are making progress," Kerry told the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "There's video, as you all know. We have identified people. And they are building a case. You know, we're going through the tedious, laborious and very difficult process of gaining evidence from a part of the country which is dangerous and working in a place where the standards are different and the expectations are different. We're working through that.”
Still, Rohrabacher suggested the Obama administration lied to Congress about details related to the attack and is “attempting to stonewall progress” on a Congressional investigation by withholding requested documents.
Appearing exasperated, Kerry pledged to lawmakers to appoint a liaison from the State Department to help Congress review unresolved requests.
"I will appoint somebody to work directly with you, starting tomorrow," Kerry said. "After we do that ... you will not have questions.”
"If there's something legitimate that really needs to be put on the table, I'll put it on the table, and I'll work with you in good faith,” he added “"But let's put this behind us. We've got serious, major, big, current, important, vital to our national security issues to be debating."