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Blinken threatened with criminal contempt for refusing to turn over Afghan withdrawal files

Secretary Antony J. Blinken in a virtual U.S. Embassy London meet and greet on May 4, 2021. (State Department Photo by Ron Przysucha)
May 22, 2023

The Biden administration’s State Department recently informed the House of Foreign Affairs Committee that it would be allowed to review portions of the documents relating to the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, with the caveat that committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) suspend his push to hold Secretary of State Antony Blinken in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over the files.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee first requested the documents over a year ago. Last week, McCaul confirmed a contempt vote to The Washington Times, but hedged that it could be suspended should Blinken agree to produce the documents. 

“I hope the Secretary will comply with our subpoena,” McCaul said. “We’ve given him a lot of accommodations. Exercised a lot of patience.” 

On a May 14 appearance on ABC “This Week,” McCaul stated he would move forward with criminal charges against Blinken.

“This would be the first time a Secretary of State has ever been held in contempt by Congress, and it’s criminal contempt, so I don’t take it lightly,” McCaul said

McCaul is specifically seeking fulfillment of a subpoena that requests a dissent cable sent by 23 U.S. diplomats prior to the withdrawal of troops. Allegedly, the communication contains warnings that the Taliban was approaching and Afghan security was degrading while encouraging a faster evacuation.  

READ MORE: Biden admin ‘failing’ Afghanistan withdrawal key goal, gov’t watchdog says: ‘left most allies behind’

Dissent cables are a commonly used method by which American diplomats share concerns and are typically held to anonymous standards in order to encourage candid discussion. 

Thirteen U.S. troops died during the evacuation, along with an unspecified number of Afghan soldiers and civilians. Other Americans were left behind in the evacuation, along with billions of dollars in American military equipment. 

According to the Washington Free Beacon, a letter to McCaul signified Blinken is prepared to share documents.

“The Department is prepared to invite (McCaul) and the Ranking Member of the Committee to visit the Department at your convenience to read this cable and its response, with the names of the signatories redacted and with the understanding that the Committee would suspend possible enforcement actions related to the Committee’s subpoena,” the letter reads. 

While McCaul has agreed to view the cable, he has not withdrawn the legal standing of his subpoena.  

“The subpoena remains in full force and effect, and the acceptance of this accommodation does not waive any of the committee’s rights regarding a subpoena, “ McCaul said.