House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul on Tuesday viewed a dissent cable sent by US diplomats before the frenzied US withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021 and spoke with Secretary of State Antony Blinken about the classified information afterward.
The viewing was a win for McCaul, a Republican, who advanced a resolution to hold Blinken in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over the cable, which the committee first subpoenaed for in March. The State Department last week had told McCaul and ranking member Gregory Meeks, a Democrat, that they alone could view the dissent cable “in camera” at the State Department with some personal information redacted.
Speaking outside of the State Department Tuesday, McCaul commended the State Department for allowing them to view the cable and response, but noted that he still believes that “in compliance with the subpoena to the committee, that all members of the committee should be able to review in camera the same way that we had the opportunity to do so.”
Leslie Shedd, McCaul’s communications director, told CNN “[McCaul] spoke to the secretary and told him that he appreciated him allowing himself and the ranking member to view the cable. But that it’s hard for him to go back to all the other Members in the committee - Republicans and Democrats - and say they can’t view it too.”
“He told the secretary he needs to talk to RM Meeks and the other members and would get back with him,” she said.
The Republican-led committee, which is investigating the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, had scheduled a markup of the resolution to hold Blinken in contempt for this week, though that markup was postponed on Thursday without a reschedule date.
Meeks, meanwhile, applauded Blinken for his “extraordinary” and “unprecedented” cooperation.
“I understand the significance and the importance for him to make sure that he’s protecting individuals in the dissent channel. Because it’s important to have that,” the New York Democrat said.
The dissent 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 Afghanistan – because they believed the situation in the country could rapidly deteriorate and feared a catastrophe.
In the chaotic final weeks of the US evacuation that soon followed, a suicide bomber attacked the Kabul airport and killed 13 US service members and more than 100 Afghans.
McCaul subpoenaed Blinken March 28 to appear in front of the committee after asking the Secretary of State for the document for months. Blinken told the committee at the time 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.
CNN’s Kylie Atwood contributed to this report.