The Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives is planning arraign Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with a congressional subpoena. The committee aims to hold a vote in early June, the Republican caucus chairman told CBS News.
“It’s a path I’d prefer not to take, but it’s necessary,” committee chairman Michael McCaul said in an interview ahead of the May 11 deadline for the State Department to provide documents to the House committee.
In late March, the Republican-led committee issued a subpoena to obtain a confidential internal State Department document known as the “dissent cable,” which was written by 23 department officials in Kabul, Afghanistan, and warned, Wall Street Journal, that Kabul would fall after the Biden administration’s planned withdrawal deadline of August 31, 2021. The Journal report also said the cable indicated the Taliban were rapidly gaining territory and that the cable suggested ways to speed up the evacuation.
McCall has for several weeks warned that he would summon Blinken to court if he did not hand over the dissenting telegram and his reply.
“It would be the first time a secretary of state has ever been held in contempt by Congress,” McCaul said.
During the Trump administration, House Democrats threatened to charge then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with contempt over documents related to the Senate investigation of Hunter Biden. The contempt threat was withdrawn after the documents were referred to a House committee.
When asked about the timing of the contempt resolution against Blinken, McCaul said he plans to move quickly, and the committee plans to consider the measure on May 24, followed by a vote by the full House by early June.
Still, McCall said, “We deliver [Blinken] enough time to answer. It is important to note that this is also a criminal contempt… It will be voted on in the House of Representatives, and after that it will be transferred to court.”
As part of the committee’s efforts to reach a middle ground with the State Department, McCaul said he offered to review the cable in a private setting, instead of demanding that the document be delivered to the committee. He also suggested that the State Department could redact the names of officials who signed the memo, the committee said.
A few hours before the May 11 deadline, a State Department spokesman told reporters: “The Department has already offered a classified briefing and a summary of the dissent’s television channel, as well as the Department’s response. We believe that this information was sufficient to meet what the committee has requested so far, but we, again, will continue to interact with them.”
CBS News has reached out to the State Department for further comment. The spokesman referred to a press statement on Thursday.
— Melissa Quinn and Rebecca Kaplan contributed to this report.