Cummings Responds to Abusive, Retaliatory Subpoena
WASHINGTON—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, issued the following statement after Chairman Trey Gowdy unilaterally subpoenaed Assistant Secretary of Defense Stephen Hedger:
“This latest abuse of authority by House Republicans is ridiculous and a desperate distraction from a failed investigation. 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.”
In 2013, an individual who identified himself as “John from Iowa” called into Sean Hannity’s radio show explaining that he was a drone camera operator on the night of the attacks in Benghazi.
Gowdy waited until February 26, 2016, to request that the Pentagon find “John from Iowa” and make him available for an interview—659 days after the Select Committee was established.
On April 29, 2016, the Assistant Secretary of Defense wrote a letter to Gowdy explaining that the Pentagon had already provided access to the actual video from the drone more than a year earlier and expressing concern about the “recent crescendo” of new requests coming from Select Committee Republicans, despite repeated assurances that their work was almost complete, and requesting a meeting. The letter stated:
“The number and continued pace of these requests since February 2016 are in tension with your staff’s statements that the Committee expects to finish its investigation in the near term. ... [W]e are concerned by the continuous threats from your staff to subpoena witnesses because we are not able to move quickly enough to accommodate these new requests. Subpoenaing our service members, when the Department is working diligently to accommodate your requests and when no service member has refused to appear voluntarily, is unfair to our uniformed men and women and an unproductive way forward.”
Nevertheless, Gowdy pressed ahead and demanded that the Defense Department find “John from Iowa.” Although Republicans waited more than 21 months to request the interview with “John from Iowa,” the Pentagon identified him in three months and made him available for an interview with the Select Committee yesterday.
It turns out that “John” was the individual’s middle name rather than his first name. During his interview, this individual offered little new information, instead referring the Select Committee back to the video the Pentagon had made available more than a year earlier.
A Democratic Committee Spokesman issued the following statement on the interview:
“It’s a sad day indeed when House Republicans trumpet the so-called ‘news’ that they finally interviewed ‘John from Iowa,’ a drone operator who called into Sean Hannity’s radio show in 2013. There is a gaping hole in the Republican press release—it completely ignores the fact that ‘John from Iowa’ provided virtually no substantive information we didn’t already have. To the contrary, he referred us back to the same videos the Pentagon made available to the Select Committee more than a year ago. The Republican press release complains that it took the Pentagon several months to track down ‘John from Iowa,’ but Republicans are the ones who waited more than a year and a half to even request the interview.”