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House GOP pauses Blinken contempt push

The chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee said on Thursday he accepted the State Department’s invitation to view a classified cable related to the August 2021 withdrawal from Afghanistan and would “pause” attempts to enforce a subpoena to obtain it. “In light of this invitation, I will pause efforts to enforce the Committee’s subpoena pending my review of the documents,” Republican Representative Michael McCaul wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The Associated Press has the story:

House GOP pauses Blinken contempt push

Newslooks- WASHINGTON (AP)

The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee says he is pausing an effort to hold Secretary of State Antony Blinken in contempt of Congress now that the State Department offered to let him review a classified cable from U.S. diplomats in Kabul sent shortly before the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, agreed Thursday to review the July 2021 communication that reportedly warned the U.S. about the potential fall of Kabul via a special dissent channel. State Department officials have used the classified messaging platform for decades to issue warnings or express contrarian views directly to senior agency officials.

FILE – Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, speaks during a Republican news conference ahead of the State of the Union, March 1, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington. A senior Republican lawmaker on Sunday criticized the Biden administration for not sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, as tensions simmer about whether China could send weapons to help Russia in the year-long war. McCaul, chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, told ABC’s “This Week” that planes and long-range artillery could help end the war on a faster timeline. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

McCaul accepted the condition to view the document with the names of those who signed it redacted. The same offer was made to the top Democrat on the panel, Rep. Gregory Meeks of New York, but McCaul urged State to grant access to all other committee members also.

The State Department did not immediately return a request for comment.

McCaul had been threatening to schedule a committee vote next week to hold Blinken in contempt of Congress if he did not release the documents to lawmakers. If it passed, the contempt resolution would go to the House for a vote, and Republicans hold a slim majority there.

“In light of this invitation, I will pause efforts to enforce the Committee’s subpoena pending my review of the documents,” McCaul said in a letter to Blinken. “Please note, however, that the subpoena remains in full force and effect, and the acceptance of this accommodation does not waive any of the Committee’s rights regarding the subpoena.”

Ranking member, Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., right, asks questions as Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, left, listens during the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the struggles of women and girls in Afghanistan after the U.S withdrawal, Wednesday, May 17, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

The State Department had previously briefed McCaul on the substance of the cables, but the Republican chairman said he was not satisfied.

“I want to see the original content, and I also want to see the secretary’s response,” McCaul told reporters, adding that reading the cable would provide insight into the diplomats’ state of mind in the embassy at the time, and any dissenting views. “To have 23 dissenters is very significant.”

The agency has argued that it has been trying to provide Congress with “appropriate” information on the cable while also protecting its employees.

McCaul has battled with the Biden administration over gaining access to the messages as part of a larger GOP investigation into what went wrong as the Taliban swept back to power in Afghanistan in August 2021.

At least 123 dissent channel cables have been sent since 1971, according to the National Security Archives at George Washington University. The vast majority of those have remained classified, and the State Department has long objected to efforts to force their release.

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