The House Foreign Affairs Committee plans to move forward with holding Secretary of State Antony Blinken in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with a congressional subpoena. The committee is aiming for a floor vote in early June, the panel’s Republican chairman told CBS News.
“It’s a path I would rather not take, but it’s necessary,” committee Chairman Michael McCaul said in an interview on the eve of the May 11 deadline to provide State Department records to the House Committee.
The GOP-led committee issued a subpoena in late March for an internal confidential State Department document known as a “dissent cable,” which had been written by 23 of the department’s employees in Kabul, Afghanistan, that warned, according to the Wall Street Journal, that Kabul would fall after the Biden administration’s planned withdrawal deadline of Aug. 31, 2021. The Journal’s report also said that the cable pointed out the Taliban was gaining territory quickly and that the cable suggested ways of speeding up the evacuation.
has for weeks that he would subpoena Blinken if he did not turn over the dissent cable and his response.
“This would be the first time a secretary of state has ever been in contempt by Congress,” McCaul said.
During the Trump administration, House Democrats threatened to hold then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in contempt for records related to a Senate investigation into Hunter Biden. The contempt threat was dropped after the documents were provided to the House committee.
Asked about the timeline for the contempt resolution against Blinken, McCaul said he plans to move swiftly, with the committee scheduled to consider the measure May 24, which would be followed by a vote by the full House by early June.
Still, McCaul said, “We are giving [Blinken] ample time to respond. It’s important to note this is criminal contempt as well … It would be voted out of the House and go into judicial proceedings after that.”
As part of the committee’s efforts to reach middle ground with the State Department, McCaul said he had offered to review the cable in a private setting, instead of requiring the document to be delivered to the committee. He had also suggested that the State Department could redact the names of the officials who signed the memo, the committee said.
Hours before the May 11 deadline passed, a State Department spokesman told reporters, “The department has already offered a classified briefing and a summary of the dissent channel cable, as well as the department’s response. We believe that this information has been sufficient to meet what the committee has requested thus far, but we, again, will continue to engage with them.”
CBS News asked the State Department for further comment. A spokesperson referred to Thursday’s statement to the press.
— Melissa Quinn and Rebecca Kaplan contributed to this report.