"The State Department would not allow our committees to keep copies of this email when it was reviewed," Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said. "I would call on the president to order the State Department to release this email so that the American people can see it."
The speaker's call came Thursday after a House oversight committee conducted a hearing into the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi in which Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other diplomatic employees were killed.
White House spokesman Jay Carney Friday told reporters the hearing was politically motivated.
Republicans' demands on Benghazi represent "ongoing attempts to politicize a tragedy that took four American lives." Carney said. "We're now seeing it resurface together with sort of political assertions by Republicans that ignore the basic facts here: There was an attack on our facility in Benghazi. The intelligence community provided the information that it felt comfortable providing for public dissemination to members of government, Congress and the administration."
Republicans on the committee criticized the Obama administration and Democrats for not cooperating with the committee's investigation and for the actions taken by the administration in the attack's aftermath, with one Republican member calling it a "political coverup that resulted from that mismanagement."
Democrats had said the hearing before the House Government Operations Committee is a not-so-subtle effort to blot the credentials of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, one of the country's most popular political figures and the overwhelming favorite for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, should she decide to run.
During Wednesday's hearing, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., read an excerpt from the email, quoting what he said was a reference to the local militant group that carried out the attack, Ansar al-Sharia, as having links to "Islamic terrorists." The New York Times said a copy of the email it received included the phrase "Islamic extremists," not "terrorists."
Gowdy and other Republicans said the email's significance was its timing -- the day after the attack -- and in its description. They said the distinction between the words "extremists" and "terrorists" was without difference.
"Four Americans lost their lives in this terrorist attack," Boehner said Wednesday, "and Congress is going to continue to investigate this issue using all the resources at our disposal."
Democrats dismissed the email as another GOP attempt to rehash an issue Clinton addressed when she appeared before Congress last fall.
"'Old news' is an understatement; maybe Speaker Boehner just didn't realize that this exact same issue was already addressed last October," said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., the ranking Democrat on the House committee. He raised questions about the motive behind the hearing during his opening remarks.