McCaul threatens to hold Blinken in contempt of Congress over Kabul cable

Photo: Reuters.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul has warned he will hold US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in contempt of Congress next week if he fails to release a classified dissent cable sent from US diplomats at the embassy in Kabul shortly before the chaotic troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

McCaul told reporters Monday that the House Foreign Affairs Committee could vote on the contempt charges at a hearing on May 24.

The State Department has said it is trying to provide Congress with “appropriate” information on the cable while also protecting its employees. The so-called dissent channel has for decades provided a way for diplomats to discreetly voice concerns about strategy. They are automatically classified to protect the identities of the Foreign Service officers.

McCaul has battled with the Biden administration for months over gaining access to the messages as part of a larger Republican inquiry into the 2021 withdrawal.

On Sunday, McCaul told ABC News that he has “a legitimate subpoena. There is no executive privilege”.
He said the House Committee has been “trying to work with” the State Department but they “sent another letter trying to delay this contempt proceeding. But if we don’t get that cable, you know, they offered a filtered summary, they offered a peace offering,” he said adding “I think it’s a delay tactic.”

McCaul also said this would be the first time a secretary of state has been held in contempt by Congress, “and it’s criminal contempt.”

The State Department has previously briefed McCaul on the cables, but he said he was not satisfied.

“I want to see the original content, and I also want to see the secretary’s response,” McCaul said Monday. “It’s a state of mind in the embassy at the time, and to have 23 dissenters is very significant.”

McCaul said he expected the State Department to respond to his previous threats with a letter Thursday. He expected it to be a “counter-offer.”

If Blinken is held in contempt, his case would be turned over to the Department of Justice.