By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON, May 9 (Reuters) - The Republican leader of the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday added to the push for more information about last year's deadly assault on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, demanding the White House order the State Department to release emails about the attack.
Keeping up pressure on the Obama administration a day after a high-profile congressional hearing on the Sept. 11, 2012, attack, House Speaker John Boehner said the public should have access to emails about who the State Department believed was behind it and the administration's early public comments that it stemmed from spontaneous demonstrations.
"Last November, the president said he was 'happy to cooperate in any way Congress wants,'" Boehner told a news conference. "This is his chance."
Republicans contend that the White House and State Department deliberately chose not to disclose in the first days after it occurred that the Benghazi attack, which killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans, was a planned assault.
At Wednesday's hearing by the House Oversight Committee, Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina read what he said was an email sent by Acting Assistant Secretary of State Beth Jones on Sept. 12 blaming the violence in Benghazi on a group affiliated with Islamic militants.
"The State Department would not allow our committees to keep copies of this email when it was reviewed. I would call on the president to order the State Department to release this email so the American people can see it," Boehner said.
He also called for the release of emails that a House report said showed President Barack Obama's White House and State Department were involved in rewriting "talking points" on Benghazi used by Susan Rice, Obama's ambassador to the United Nations, on television talk shows shortly after the event.
Gregory Hicks, a former top U.S. diplomat in Libya, gave a dramatic account at Wednesday's hearing of the attack that killed U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
The Benghazi assault shadowed Obama as he campaigned for re-election in November, as Republicans accused the administration of trying to cover up details of the attack out of concern it would make him appear weak on foreign policy.
Democrats in turn accuse Republicans of seeking to use the attack to score political points against Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a possible 2016 Democratic presidential candidate.
"The goal here is to get to the truth," Boehner said. "The reason this is still under way is because the White House has done everything possible to block access to the information that would outline the truth. And the question you have to ask is, 'Why?'"
The State Department says it has participated in eight hearings, more than 20 inter-agency briefings and responded to more than 100 letters and questions since Sept. 11.
There are five House committees currently investigating the Benghazi attack and the administration response to it.
Boehner said he thought the hearing on Wednesday had done "a fabulous job" of eliciting new information about Benghazi, and said the House would keep up its efforts.
"There's going to be more hearings - and more information," the Ohio Republican said. (Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Vicki Allen)