Benghazi Panel to Handle Testimony From Clinton, Kerry

A U.S. House committee investigating the Benghazi attacks “by all means” will hear from Hillary Clinton, a leading Republican said, while Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi called the effort merely a distraction.

The panel wants to hear from “anybody who is material” to the probe of the deaths of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans, Representative Peter Roskam, House deputy whip and a member of the committee, said on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital With Al Hunt” airing this weekend.

That would place the prohibitive Democratic presidential frontrunner for 2016 -- even though Clinton hasn’t said whether she’s running -- before the Republican-dominated panel for grilling over what she might have done to prevent the deaths in 2012 while she was secretary of state.

“This is about trying to distract people and subterfuge,” Pelosi, a California Democrat, said in a separate interview for the program airing this weekend.

Pelosi, interviewed after President Barack Obama announced the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki over delays in treatment at VA hospitals, said his replacement may need to be someone with private-sector experience.

The VA may need someone who “says this is how we would do it in the private sector, this is how we manage scheduling and lines and getting people where they need to be for their appointment,” she said.

Procedural Issue

Republicans have solved a procedural issue over which House committee investigating the Benghazi attacks will hear testimony from Secretary of State John Kerry.

House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa had subpoenaed Kerry to appear before his panel hours before the select committee was announced. Kerry agreed to testify before Issa’s committee, and the State Department said that would make it unnecessary for him to appear before the select Benghazi panel.

Yesterday, Issa said he was releasing Kerry from the subpoena, adding in a statement that it was “disappointing to watch” Kerry “squirm his way” out of it.

Roskam, an Illinois Republican, said the Benghazi committee “is going to be dealing exclusively with these jurisdictional questions in the House.” He called the Issa issue “more of a procedural snafu than anything else.”

‘Fact-Based Exercise’

Some Democrats say the special Benghazi committee is a political exercise aimed in part at weakening Clinton as she prepares for a possible 2016 campaign. Roskam disputed that and said the inquiry will be a “fact-based exercise.”

Roskam said he hoped a subpoena wouldn’t be needed to compel Clinton to testify.

Pelosi said House Republicans have shown they’re “not about” the presidential race -- “if they cared about the presidential race, they would have passed an immigration bill,” she said.

Passing an immigration bill may not be possible unless it is brought before a committee by June, she said -- in time for floor consideration in July, before the August recess.

“We’re losing time now,” she said. “If we don’t have something scheduled, say, in June to be -- for a hearing or to be on the floor, then it’s not going to be possible.”

Pelosi said Democrats would take the same deal they did on raising the U.S. debt limit -- fewer than 30 Republicans joining all or almost all Democrats in favor of passage.

House Speaker John Boehner has so far resisted that offer, saying Republicans can’t trust that Obama would implement an immigration bill as it was passed.

Ukraine Vote

Roskam, who monitored Ukraine’s presidential elections as an international observer, said many voters supported president-elect Petro Poroshenko for stability.

“The Ukrainian voters that I spoke to, some of them were making a strategic decision,” Roskam said. “They made the decision to vote for the frontrunner, Poroshenko, in order to get a president and get a president quickly,” rather than wait weeks for a runoff election.

Roskam, who was part of a U.S. delegation that met with Poroshenko before the election for about 45 minutes, said he was impressed with the president-elect.

Poroshenko told the Americans that Ukraine will face a diminished economy and has problems with corruption in government and transparency, Roskam said. Poroshenko wants to “essentially embed Western observers and auditors throughout the government in order to move forward on that,” he said.

Ukraine also won’t negotiate on the legitimacy of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Roskam said. “He also said that they were not willing to compromise on their economic tilt to the West,” Roskam said. “He was declarative about that.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Derek Wallbank in Washington at dwallbank@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jodi Schneider at jschneider50@bloomberg.net Laurie Asseo, Mark Silva

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