The Republican chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee displayed a subpoena to Secretary of State Antony Blinken at a Thursday hearing, demanding documents surrounding the chaotic and deadly U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) described the State Department’s reasoning for withholding a document as “bullshit.”
McCaul views a dissent cable authored by at least 23 diplomats serving at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul in July 2021 as critically important to understanding why the Biden administration failed to anticipate the fall of the American-backed government and takeover by the Taliban.
The cable reportedly warned of the grave risk that the government would collapse.
McCaul, holding up a packet of papers he described as a subpoena, gave Blinken until the end of Monday to turn over the document.
Blinken said his department was holding back the physical copy of the cable to maintain the integrity of the Dissent Channel, a protected way for diplomats to raise serious and grave concerns on foreign policy directly to the secretary of State without fear of reprisal or retribution.
“It is vital to me that we preserve the integrity of that process and of that channel, that we not take any steps that could have a chilling effect on the willingness of others to come forward in the future, to express dissenting views on the policies that are being pursued,” Blinken said.
The secretary added that he is willing to provide the committee with a briefing, or some other mechanism, about the information in the cable.
McCaul pushed back on that reasoning and the State Department’s arguments of executive privilege, saying he did not believe turning the document over would have a chilling effect on future messages.
“Your department cited then-Secretary Henry Kissinger’s refusal to produce a dissent cable to Congress in the 1970s as a precedent, I would argue, [you] do not have an executive privilege on this cable,” McCaul said.
The chairman said the committee reached out to Ambassador Tom Boyatt, who had authored a dissent cable that Kissinger refused to provide to Congress, and called the State Department’s reasoning “bullshit.”
“Ambassador Boyatt is emphatic about the need for the State Department to produce dissent channel cables,” McCaul said.
“He says that any claim [provided by the State Department] to Congress, that would have a ‘chilling effect,’ as your staff has claimed, is, and I quote him directly. ‘Bullshit.’ Not my words, it’s the ambassador.”
The dissent cable is one of three documents McCaul and committee staff have prioritized. He’d previously threatened to issue a subpoena to get them.
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