Sec of State Blinken threatened with contempt of Congress over Afghanistan withdrawal subpoena

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul threatened to hold Secretary of State Antony Blinken in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with the committee’s subpoena request related to the bungled U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

McCaul (R-Texas) is requesting a full copy of a July 2021 dissent channel cable that had been signed by nearly two dozen State Department officials — the “dissent channel” allows State Dept. officials to communicate directly with senior officials. The cable warned officials of the potential collapse of Kabul a month ahead of the Taliban takeover, according to The Wall Street Journal.

“The classified cable represents the clearest evidence yet that the administration had been warned by its own officials on the ground that the Taliban’s advance was imminent and Afghanistan’s military may be unable to stop it,” the newspaper reported.

In a letter to Blinken, McCaul wrote, “The Department is now in violation of its legal obligation to produce these documents and must do so immediately. The Committee has offered in good faith numerous extensions of the original April 4 subpoena return date.”

The chairman said summaries and briefings provided by the State Department “are insufficient to satisfy the Committee’s need for the actual dissent cable and response.”

“The Department provided the Committee a roughly one-page summary of the dissent cable as well as a summary of the Department’s official response that was just under one page in length. The Department has confirmed that the original dissent cable totaled four pages in length, meaning that the summary represented a 75% reduction of the original cable,” he explained.

Blinked was informed that he must comply “no later than May 11, 2023 at 6:00 pm,” or possibly be held in contempt.

“If the Department intends to assert a privilege or other legal basis to withhold the responsive documents, it must do so by that date,” the letter concluded. “As noted above, 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.”

State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel told reporters that the agency has “sufficiently met the mark” in its previous responses.

“It’s unfortunate that after being provided a classified briefing and being provided a written summary of the contents of the dissent channel cable as well as the department’s response, the House Foreign Affairs Committee continues to pursue this,” Patel said, according to Reuters.

“Our viewpoint is that the materials and briefings that we’ve offered and provided have sufficiently met the mark when it comes to the committee’s legitimate oversight requests,” he added.


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