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Washington, D.C. – House Foreign Affairs Committee Spokesperson Leslie Shedd issued the below statement responding to State Department Spokesperson Matt Miller’s statement at yesterday’s press briefing, which included comments on Chairman McCaul’s threat to hold U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in contempt of Congress if the department continues withholding key Afghanistan withdrawal documents including After Action Review (AAR) interview notes. In his statement, Miller mischaracterizes a January 12th phone call between the committee and State Department officials, stating the department never informed the committee that the White House or any other agency was withholding the AAR interview notes. In that call:

  • Committee staff highlighted that, during Ambassador Daniel Smith’s August transcribed interview, he confirmed the AAR interview notes are in the department’s custody. Department officials responded, the AAR interview notes have White House or National Security Council equities.
  • Department officials stated Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources Rich Verma personally reviewed the interview notes and said that the department will not produce them. 
  • According to department officials, the AAR interview notes were not approved for release by the NSC and the White House.
  • Committee staff asked who they should correspond with regarding the notes’ release and department officials directed them to the White House’s Office of Legislative Affairs.
  • Committee staff stated that the chairman will escalate this to Secretary Blinken, to which department officials responded that is the “chairman’s prerogative.”

“Rather than trivializing its continued delays and obstruction, the committee encourages the State Department to dedicate its resources to comply with the subpoena and turn over these documents, now seven months overdue, as soon as possible,” stated Leslie Shedd. “The law does not afford the State Department blanket authority to hide behind ‘Executive Branch confidentiality interests’ to obstruct our committee’s jurisdiction to access the truth Americans deserve. It’s extremely foolish and disrespectful – particularly to Afghanistan veterans and the Gold Star families – that these administration officials continue to distort our conversations and play politics rather than cooperate to help ensure such a catastrophe does not happen again.”