The House Oversight Committee is demanding the State Department turn over documents to show how and why officials deleted an exchange about Iran from the official video of a 2013 press briefing.
Chairman Jason Chaffetz sent Secretary of State John Kerry a letter Thursday night demanding paperwork within the next two weeks detailing who ordered the cutting of several minutes of the video, and information about why and when the order was given. The deleted portion features an exchange between Fox News reporter James Rosen questioning then-State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki about whether the administration lied about secret talks with Iran.
The committee’s GOP leadership also requested documents relating “to any other requests to delete portions of daily press briefings” since the start of 2012, in case the Rosen-Psaki exchange is not the only instance State Department officials doctored a video.
It gave Kerry until June 16 at 5 p.m. to send relevant documents to the committee.
The letter did not insist that officials testify before Congress. But Chaffetz (R-Utah) recently tried to bring administration officials before the committee to address questions about whether the administration spun the Iran deal.
Last month, Chaffetz complained that White House Deputy National Security Adviser for Communications Ben Rhodes had not accepted an invitation to testify on White House “narratives” surrounding the Iran deal. During the hearing, Chaffetz showed clips of the deleted video the State Department admitted this week to cutting.
State Department spokesman John Kirby acknowledged Wednesday that the missing minutes were not the result of a “glitch,” as officials had initially said, but “a deliberate step to excise the video.”
The GOP has been regularly grilling State Department, Treasury and other Obama administration officials about the Iran deal and its implementation since the nuclear pact was signed almost a year ago. The House and Senate have also voted on several measures to limit United States engagement with and increase punitive measures on Iran. The House may vote on further measures later this summer.
The tale of the tape began several weeks ago when Rosen went looking for video of the 2013 exchange, after the New York Times published an article in which Rhodes bragged about creating an “echo chamber” to sell the Iran deal to the public.
The State Department’s admission Wednesday that someone had doctored the tape sent many Republican members of Congress into a rage.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) excoriated the White House, arguing in a statement that the administration “should investigate who requested this selective editing and why.” Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said the speaker would leave next steps to the relevant committees.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) sent a letter to the State Department’s inspector general on Friday urging him to launch “an investigation into the deliberate omission” of the Iran exchange from the State Department video.
Other House Republicans said that Congress should not wait indefinitely for the administration to furnish its own answers.
If State Department officials don’t swiftly clarify the events, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) — who has been particularly vocal in his opposition to the Iran deal — recommended that Congress “oughtta grab them, bring them up to Capitol Hill and understand why the State Department continues to try to deceive the American people about the Iran deal.”