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State Department To Issa: There Are ‘More Appropriate’ Witnesses Than Kerry To Testify On Benghazi

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Secretary of State John Kerry speaks as he makes remarks to the media with Syrian Opposition Coalition President Ahmad al-Jarba on May 8, 2014 at the State Department in Washington, D.C. (credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Secretary of State John Kerry speaks as he makes remarks to the media with Syrian Opposition Coalition President Ahmad al-Jarba on May 8, 2014 at the State Department in Washington, D.C. (credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — The State Department believes the House Oversight Committee can find a better witness than Secretary of State John Kerry to testify about the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement to CBS News that they want to explore better options to help address the committee’s hearing set for May 21.

“Given the pressing foreign affairs that the Secretary is actively engaged on and the Committee’s focus on document production issues, we would like to explore whether there are better means of addressing the Committee’s interests, including through a more appropriate witness,” Psaki told CBS News.

Psaki continued: “We and the Committee have been in touch to determine how to resolve their subpoena, but we have not yet made arrangements for a hearing date.”

During a news conference last week with European Union Foreign Policy Chief Cathy Ashton, Kerry said he would cooperate with the committee’s hearing after Rep. Darrell Issa, R.-Calif., the committee’s chairman, issued a subpoena for the secretary of state to testify.

“I also think there’s an issue of the requisite body figuring out who has jurisdiction over this, from what I understand. There are still some questions as to who is going to do what. So we’ll respond, because we have absolutely nothing to hide whatsoever, and I look forward to complying, whatever responsibilities we have,” Kerry said.

Kerry said that it is his obligation to cooperate.

“I’ve guaranteed that we would cooperate in every single way. We have, and I will, and the Department will. That’s our obligation. And of course, we will,” Kerry noted. “But I think everybody needs to take a hard look at – and sort of measure what’s been already put out there versus where this effort is going. And you see a very partisan response on the Hill with respect to it.”

The State Department said last Monday that Kerry would not appear before the House Oversight Committee on May 21 to talk about Benghazi.

Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Kerry planned to travel to Mexico at that time and officials would discuss alternative options with the committee.

Issa issued a subpoena for Kerry earlier this month, saying that the State Department has “failed to meets its legal obligations.”

“This disregard for the rule of law is even more disturbing considering your agency’s role in encouraging governments throughout the world to respect the rule of law and the authority of representative government brought to office through free and fair elections,” Issa said in a letter to Kerry. “By ignoring your own legal obligations and posturing the State Department as immune from congressional oversight, these actions undermine our credibility abroad and erode our moral authority.”

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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