Blinken subpoenaed by top Republican investigating Biden administration withdrawal from Afghanistan
By Kylie Atwood, CNN
The Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Michael McCaul, electronically transmitted a subpoena to the State Department on Tuesday morning for a dissent cable written by US diplomats serving in Afghanistan before the US withdrawal from the country, according to a committee aide.
The subpoena will be physically delivered to the State Department later on Tuesday, the aide said.
The issuing of the subpoena comes after months of McCaul asking the department for the dissent cable, which his team views as a vital piece of information as they investigate the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has told the committee that he opposed sharing the document because he was concerned about it having a chilling effect on diplomats’ use of the channel, which is a confidential way for them to share concerns with top State Department officials.
The frenzied final weeks of the withdrawal, during which a suicide bomber attacked the Kabul airport and killed 13 US service members and more than 100 Afghans, has been under immense scrutiny from Republican lawmakers.
The classified cable was sent to Blinken in mid-July 2021 warning that swift action needed to be taken by the department — such as quickly processing and evacuating Afghans who had assisted the US from the country — because they believed the situation in Afghanistan could rapidly deteriorate and they feared a catastrophe.
“We have made multiple good faith attempts to find common ground so we could see this critical piece of information. Unfortunately, Secretary Blinken has refused to provide the Dissent Cable and his response to the cable, forcing me to issue my first subpoena as chairman of this committee,” McCaul said.
But the State Department has resisted the committee’s efforts to get the cable and has not indicated that it will swiftly comply with the subpoena, which could result in a legal battle between the two sides.
“The Department followed up with the Committee to reiterate its willingness to provide a briefing about the concerns raised and the challenges identified by Embassy Kabul, including in the dissent channel. The Committee chose instead to issue a subpoena,” said principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel. “The Department remains committed to providing the Committee with the information it needs to conduct its oversight function, and has already provided thousands of pages of documents responsive to the Committee’s request.”
McCaul has repeatedly warned that he would issue a subpoena if the State Department failed to share what he determined were three priority items: the cable, the after-action report looking at the withdrawal, and the embassy evacuation plans. Last week, a committee aide said they received the last item, and Blinken said that the after-action report would be given to Congress in the coming weeks.
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CNN’s Jennifer Hansler contributed to this report.