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Washington, D.C. – Today, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee on Oversight and Accountability’s bipartisan roundtable with family members on American citizens detained and held hostage around the globe. 



– Highlights from the Chairman’s remarks –

Thank you Chairman Mast and I want to thank you for your leadership on this. Ranking Member Crow, [Representative] French [Hill], your leadership on this is extraordinary. 
I can’t think of anything more painful than to have my loved one abducted and held hostage in a foreign land. 
My wife and I, Linda, think of all [of] you very often…
I also want to note and acknowledge the ones who cannot be here. To those who are illegally held overseas, but also certain families who are not able to join us. I think one hostage is too many. 
And we’re seeing a trend now where it is becoming a practice of foreign governments to take hostages in exchange for a trade. We have Americans wrongfully detained in Russia, China, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, [and] we remember all of them. 
I always put it high at the list, as [Representative] French [Hill] said, this should be the first thing spoken when the Secretary of State visits a country that has detained an American unlawfully. I do give the administration some credit, but I also want to raise issues. For instance, we traded Viktor Bout, one of the world’s most notorious arms dealers, called “the Merchant of Death,” for Brittney Griner, a basketball player who had a vape pipe. If we’re going to do trades, I think the trades [should] be a fair trade, not a lopsided trade because that only encourages more hostage taking. 
Another miscalculation, in my judgment, was trading five Iranian spies and giving Iran access to six billion dollars for the exchange of five innocent Americans. Think about that – Iranian spies for innocent Americans. This is just encouraging more ransom hostage taking. After we gave Iran access to the six billion, we saw Hamas take 241 hostages from Israel, including many Americans, and we know that many of them have not survived in the tunnels in Gaza.
We should be projecting power. As Reagan talked about, we should be levying sanctions, punishing bad behavior, not rewarding bad behavior. I have five kids and if there are no consequences to bad behavior, guess what? Bad behavior continues, and it just encourages more of that. We need to hold them accountable for their human rights abuses and negotiate from a position of strength, not weakness.
Today is all about you. It’s all about the missing Americans. I grieve for you. I think about you every day. I think about not only you but your families. As I saw Anna [Corbett] at the State of Union with her dear children. I can’t imagine high school kids knowing, having to deal with the fact that their father is held by the Taliban in Afghanistan not knowing what is happening, what kind of health condition he is in, and never knowing for sure if we’ll ever come home. 

But in each year and with every case, we are following up with the appropriate countries and the ambassadors to get them returned and safely back home. I can’t imagine the grief, and quite frankly it makes me angry, and we need to do something about it and get them home now.