Top Republican lawmakers are demanding answers after the State Department admitted an official intentionally deleted several minutes of footage from a press briefing dealing with sensitive questions on the Iran nuclear deal.
The department has not identified who actually ordered the deletion; one spokesman said their internal inquiry has hit a “dead end.”
But the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has asked the State Department for more information -- and the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee has asked the State Department inspector general to investigate.
"In tampering with this video, the Bureau of Public Affairs has undermined its mission to ‘communicate timely and accurate information with the goal of furthering U.S. foreign policy,’” Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., said in a letter to Inspector General Steve Linick. “This is all the more troubling given that the video in question dealt with hugely consequential nuclear negotiations with the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
Reached Thursday by FoxNews.com, an official in the inspector general’s office said they had just become aware of the issue and could not comment at this time.
Meanwhile, in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, asked for documents identifying the official or officials involved in editing out the portion of the Dec. 2, 2013, daily press briefing.
Chaffetz said he wants to “better understand the facts and circumstances surrounding the deletion.”
According to The Washington Free Beacon, House Speaker Paul Ryan also called for the administration to investigate who ordered the edit. “This admission proves once again that the White House intentionally misled the American people about the Iran deal,” Ryan told the Free Beacon.
Kerry, in Paris for discussions on restarting peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, weighed in for the first time Friday afternoon, calling the edit "stupid and clumsy and inappropriate."
Asked if he would fire the person responsible, Kerry said, "I would like to find out exactly what happened and why." He said he didn't want someone like that working for him.
At issue is footage from a 2013 briefing where then-State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki appeared to acknowledge misleading the press over the Iran nuclear deal.
Psaki was asked by Fox News’ James Rosen about an earlier claim from another official that no direct, secret talks were underway between the U.S. and Iran – when, in fact, they were. Psaki at the time said: “There are times where diplomacy needs privacy in order to progress. This is a good example of that.”
However, Fox News later discovered the Psaki exchange was missing from the department’s official website and its YouTube channel (though not from the transcript). Eight minutes from the briefing, including the comments on the Iran deal, were edited out and replaced with a white-flash effect.
State Department spokesman John Kirby revealed Wednesday there had in fact been a “deliberate request” to cut the footage.
It’s unclear who made that request. Psaki has denied involvement, and a senior State Department official also told Fox News on Friday that the video editor who received the request “did indicate that Jen Psaki was not the caller.”
Psaki, who is now White House communications director, lashed out at Rosen on Thursday after the reporter sought a clarification regarding her statement on the footage.
Psaki later told CNN she would cooperate with Chaffetz's investigation and had nothing to hide, but declined to say whether the State Department's inspector general should open its own probe.
"This is a stunning case of poor judgment, or lack of experience, or both," Psaki said of the video edit.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.