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State Dept. Ends Investigation of Altered Press Briefing Video as Pressure Grows

The State Department said Friday that officials have exhausted their internal investigation into the deliberate altering of a press briefing video on the timing of U.S.-Iran nuclear negotiations. But Secretary of State John Kerry said he still intends to find the person responsible.

Speaking with the Associated Press in Paris, the Secretary called the incident "stupid, clumsy and inappropriate" adding, he does not want such a person working for him.

Image: US-UKRAINE-DIPLOMACY-PSAKI
Former U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki is seen speaking at daily briefing in this 2014 file photo. NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP - Getty Images

Republicans in Congress are also calling for the responsible party to be held accountable. In a letter to Kerry Thursday, Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Committee Jason Chaffetz asked that any information on those who made the request along with "all documents and communications referring or relating to the deletion of video footage" be turned over to the committee as soon as possible.

Related: State Dept. Edits, Restores Video Exchange on Iran Nuclear Deal

State Department officials said they are studying the letter and "will make every effort to be responsive to his questions."

In a separate letter, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ed Royce asked the State Department Inspector General to open its own investigation, saying the incident raised disturbing questions.

"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,'" the letter reads.

State Department Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner maintained that an investigation by the Inspector General was unnecessary as the agency had conducted its own internal investigation but added, "the letter has been sent to the I.G. and it's up to the I.G. to make that call."

The State Department has said that no rules were broken at the time of the incident and the agency is working to change protocols to prevent a similar occurrence in the future.

The missing question and answer session involved the timing of the Iran nuclear deal negotiations and occurred between then-State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki and FOX News correspondent James Rosen.

In the exchange with Psaki, Rosen suggested that former spokesperson Victoria Nuland had misled reporters during a 2012 briefing by denying the existence of government-to-government discussions between the U.S. and Iran. Rosen then asked Psaki whether it is the State Department's policy to lie in order to preserve the secrecy of negotiations.

"I think there are times where diplomacy needs privacy in order to progress," Psaki responded. "I think this is a good example of that."

The State Department said Friday that the person involved in the editing had cleared Psaki of any wrongdoing, although they could not recall otherwise what public affairs official had been involved. Psaki currently serves as White House director of communications and has publicly denied any involvement.

The full video of the briefing has since been restored and was always available in full on the State Department DVIDs website as was the full transcript of the briefing on the State Department website.