Rep. McCaul pauses subpoena for Blinken to turn over Afghan cable

WASHINGTON — House Foreign Affairs Chairman Michael McCaul said Thursday that he’ll “pause” enforcement of the committee’s subpoena for the State Department to produce a 2021 cable in which 23 U.S. diplomats warned of Kabul’s potential collapse soon after U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

In a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the Texas Republican accepted the State Department’s invitation to view the dissent cable and the department’s response. McCaul has previously threatened to hold Blinken in contempt of Congress for not turning over the classified document.

“In light of this invitation, I will pause efforts to enforce the Committee’s subpoena pending my review of the documents,” McCaul wrote. “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.”

He also insisted on “allowing other Members to review the dissent cable and response.”

Rep. Gregory Meeks of New York, the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, will be allowed to view the documents with McCaul.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on McCaul’s letter.

The State Department has made various counteroffers to McCaul’s March subpoena, including providing a written summary of the cable’s contents in addition to a classified briefing. McCaul, however, has insisted that the committee receive a full copy of the cable as well as the secretary’s response to it.

The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan was widely viewed as chaotic. A deadly attack at Abbey Gate at Kabul International Airport resulted in the deaths of 13 U.S. service members and 170 Afghan civilians.

The Biden administration has blown past three deadlines for a congressional subpoena for the dissent cable, arguing that providing the sensitive memo to Congress would deter diplomats from using the channel to voice opposing views.

On Wednesday, the State Department said it would let the top two members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee — McCaul and Meeks — view the 2021 dissent cable, according to a letter obtained by NBC News.

“The accommodations that the Department has provided to date are extraordinary and, as stated in our prior correspondence, already create a serious risk of chilling both future use of, and future candor in, Dissent Channel cables,” the letter from the Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs Naz Durakoglu said, calling their latest proposal “extraordinary.”

The letter added that the State Department’s offer was contingent on the committee suspending all enforcement actions related to the subpoena, including dropping the threat to hold Blinken in contempt.

McCaul on Wednesday called the offer “a significant step forward,” but did not drop his contempt threat.

Vedant Patel, a State Department spokesperson, defended the department’s engagement on Thursday.

“I think it is natural in these discussions for there to be deliberations and accommodations about the path forward. I’m certainly not going to speculate and hypothesize on how we continue to further engage with the committee,” Patel told reporters. “What I will reiterate, though, is that at every turn we have offered tangible, fair and realistic accommodations that we think have sufficiently met and continue to sufficiently meet the committee’s request for information.”

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