The president and other Democrats accuse the Republicans of exploiting the deaths of the four Americans for political purposes, including trying to unjustly discredit then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the early front-runner in either party in the 2016 presidential election.
The investigation is being spearheaded by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, who asked Pickering and Mullen earlier this week to submit to a closed-door transcribed interview about the Accountability Review Board before a public hearing.
Issa and other Republican panel members have raised questions about the integrity of the boards final report, citing testimony by three State Department officials at a hearing last week that the inquiry was incomplete because it failed to hold senior leaders accountable for the consulates inadequate security.
The three also said the board should have interviewed some officials who werent asked to testify, and some lawmakers have questioned why Pickering and Mullen decided not to formally interview Clinton.
Pickering and Mullen wrote to Issa on Thursday to say they want to testify on the inquiry in public they suggested the dates of May 28 or June 3 but that they considered the request for an advance private interview highly unusual because they werent witnesses to the attack.
In our view, requiring such a closed-door proceeding before we testify publicly is an inappropriate precondition, they wrote. Moreover, notwithstanding what your understanding may be, Ambassador Pickering did not agree to such a closed-door proceeding; his sole focus has been on testifying in an open hearing. If you and he were talking past each other that is unfortunate.
There was no immediate response from Issa.
Stevens and Sean Smith, a State Department communications specialist, died when dozens of armed Islamist militants stormed the poorly guarded diplomatic compound and set fire to the building they were in. Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, former Navy SEALs who were working as contract security guards for the CIA, died hours later when attackers fired mortars at the CIA annex to which the survivors of the consulate assault had fled. The annex was about a mile from the compound.
The Accountability Review Boards report was scathing in its criticism of the State Department leadership, saying it had failed to provide sufficient security to U.S. facilities in Libya despite requests from Stevens and others for more protection as crime and Islamist violence rose in the wake of the U.S.-backed revolution that toppled the late dictator Moammar Gadhafi in October 2011.
The unclassified version of the report, however, didnt identify any culpable officials, although Clinton publicly took responsibility.
In their letter to Issa, Pickering and Mullen defended their effort as perhaps the most transparent accountability review board ever. It is only the second to have its full report provided to the Congress.
Lesley Clark and David Lightman contributed to this report.