Secretary of State Antony Blinken could face a contempt of Congress charge from House Republicans as soon as May 24 after refusing to turn over a key document warning U.S. officials about a deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan before withdrawing in August 2021.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) told the Daily Mail that members of Congress gave Blinken and state department officials “ample time” to hand over the classified dissent report, which urged allies to evacuate immediately before the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan.
Republican lawmakers said they would immediately pursue legal proceedings if Blinken missed the fourth deadline given to the official on Thursday to comply with the subpoena.
“We’ve given them ample time,” McCaul said. “Three extensions of time we tried to work this out, but unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that that’s going to work, and the next step will be to move to contempt proceedings.”
McCaul wrote in a statement earlier this week that the department is now in violation of its legal obligation to produce such documents. State Department officials argue the committee received the classified briefings with a written summary on the dissent, but McCaul said the “misleading” information turned over has been “insufficient.”
“Should the Department fail to comply with its legal obligation, the Committee is prepared to take the necessary steps to enforce its subpoena, including holding you in contempt of Congress and/or initiating a civil enforcement proceeding,” McCaul said, according to Fox News.
McCaul said the committee plans to meet on May 24 to hold Blinken in contempt and move the charge to the House of Representatives for a full vote — the first time in U.S. history that lawmakers would take action against a sitting Secretary of State.
President Joe Biden withdrew from Afghanistan on August 2021, ending two decades of U.S. military presence. The last troop plane departed after a weeks-long chaotic evacuation, which led to a terrorist attack that killed 13 U.S. service members and 170 civilians, and leaving up to a maximum of $24 billion worth of weapons and equipment in the hands of the Taliban.
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“American people and the veterans and the Gold Star families are right to know what the thinking was in the embassy at the time to take the extraordinary measure to dissent from the policy,” McCaul said. “We also want to see Secretary Blinken’s response to the dissenting cable to see what the state of mind was a month before the debacle and the collapse of Afghanistan, which culminated in the killing of 13 service men and women.”
The Daily Mail reported that if lawmakers hold Blinken in contempt of Congress, Biden’s Department of Justice would have to comply with legal proceedings, but would likely forego taking action against the administration official.