The following is a transcript of an interview with Rep. Michael McCaul, Republican of Texas, that aired on “Face the Nation” on Sunday, March 12, 2023.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Texas Republican Congressman Michael McCaul. Good morning to you, Chairman McCaul.
REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL: Good Morning, MARGARET.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I got a lot to get to with you today. But I want to start where I just left off with those very strong remarks from Mike Pence last night. Do you want to associate yourself with what he said?
REP. MCCAUL: Let me just say Vice President Pence exercised moral clarity and judgment that day by doing his constitutional responsibility, authenticating the votes and counting them. He avoided a major constitutional crisis that day. As you know, I voted for certification, that is our constitutional role not to overturn state certified ballots. So I agree. I mean, look, there was a dark-dark day. And I think people will be- history will judge everyone by what they did that day.
MARGARET BRENNAN: It was a pretty strong condemnation of Donald Trump, who he hasn’t directly taken on like that before. But it’s also back in the news very much, Chairman, because it was the Speaker of the House who gave those 41 thousand hours of surveillance video access to Fox News, which then has used a recasting of the events trying to sanitize it, trying to whitewash history. Do you think it was a mistake for Republican leadership to strike this deal with Tucker Carlson? That is who Mike Pence was talking about?
REP. MCCAUL: Well I know Kevin McCarthy has turned all the videotape over to Fox News. He has given me assurance, he’s going to turn it over to the tire media, I think. I believe in the fourth estate freedom of press, and I think the American people deserve to see all the footage from that day, and all the footage is not going to be, you know, tourism at the Capitol. It’s going to show a very dark, tragic day that I witnessed firsthand, that included our Capitol Police being assaulted, 140 of them injured, two pipe bombs. One-one Capitol police officer killed, and a protester killed. That’s not that’s not a good day. And I think it should have been prevented had we had good intelligence that day beforehand. And look, I support law enforcement, like this DC crime bill we were passing. I support law enforcement everywhere, especially at the United States Capitol.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you on the other side of an upcoming commercial break about the hearing you just held on Afghanistan. But before I do that, I want to quickly ask you about what we’ve been talking about with the Treasury Secretary saying no government bailout for this Silicon Valley Bank, but they are trying to take some action. She didn’t give a lot of detail there. I know Austin is a startup hub in your home state of Texas. How concerned are you about spill over here?
REP. MCCAUL: Yeah, we do have South by Southwest this weekend. Lot of tech. You know, I am concerned, I hope it’s more of an isolated event because the assets were very, you know, it was all just technology sector. And it wasn’t diversified. Also, as the Secretary mentioned, these low interest bonds, and I think part of the problem, Margaret is in this inflationary time, the reserve- Federal Reserve now is raising interest rates, and that I think is part of the problem as well. We want to make sure this is- this is an isolated event, and not a systemic event that could impact things like in 2008 when we did bailout the financial sector.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right, I’ve got to take that break now. We’ll come back and continue our conversation in a moment.
[PART 1 BREAK]
MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to Face The Nation. We want to return now to our conversation with House Foreign Affairs Chairman Michael McCaul. Now, Chairman, I mentioned that you held this hearing on Afghanistan this past week, and it was pretty emotional. You’re really examining the chaotic withdrawal from that country. And you had a Marine Corps Sergeant injured in the suicide bombing, who testified that he was an eye witness and he actually saw the suicide bomber before the attack. He testified he has never been interviewed as part of the US investigation. How is this overlooked?
REP. MCCAUL: I think it’s very- well first of all, very powerful testimony, very emotional, but very devastating and damaging to the administration. These- these snipers and troops were put at HKIA, surrounded by the Taliban–
MARGARET BRENNAN: The airport in Kabul.
REP. MCCAUL: They put the Taliban in- in Kabul. That’s HKIA airport. And surrounded by the Taliban, who were put in charge, and that was the first mistake in the chaos that we heard that happened that day, and the State Department virtually non-existent. I think the most dramatic thing, MARGARET, was the fact that this sniper had the suicide bomber in his sights, and an intelligence bulletin went out, you know, describing him. He said this is- this meets the description, meets with the team, psyops- psychological operations, get together, they run this up the chain of command, and the commanding officer says, I don’t have the authority. And then they said, who does have the authority for permission to engage? And the commanding officer says, I don’t know. And he never got back to them. The point is, they could have taken out this threat. That then when the suicide bomber went off, not only did Marine Sgt. Vargas-Andrews have his leg blown off and his arm, but we had 140 Afghans killed, 13 servicemen and women killed. I talked to the mother of one of the marine sergeants, I gave her just a hug. She was so devastated. In addition to 50 injured, including Marine Sgt. Vargas-Andrews, and it could have been avoided.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, to the point of how it could be avoided, you know, you- you hear there were intelligence failures, events just got ahead of planning. The State Department argues that they’ve briefed Congress more than 150 times since the withdrawal. What information do you need that you don’t have yet?
REP. MCCAUL: Well, I think the compelling testimony we got from the sniper, we’ve never heard this before. In fact, MARGARET, this is the first open hearing we’ve had on Afghanistan since the fall of Afghanistan. And I intend to move forward with this investigation. And I want to know what the commanding officer was thinking when he denied permission to take out the threat, and how, what levels did it go to within the United States government? I think those are all very important questions. And the State Department has not been compliant with our document requests. I met with the Secretary. We had a very cordial conversation. Cooperation is always key. But they’re not cooperating if he fails to cooperate with my document production request by the time he testifies on March 23, I am prepared to issue a subpoena.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And issue- issue a subpoena for Antony Blinken to come testify before your committee. What exactly do you think he’s withholding? What’s the document?
REP. MCCAUL: No, he is- he- he will be testifying, but we have an outstanding document production request, that the lawyers are very combative. I think the Secretary in good faith has told me he wants to cooperate with this investigation, be transparent to the American people. But we’re not seeing that with the lawyers handling this on the ground. So we need these documents because a lot of this stuff, to your point MARGARET, has never been brought out to the public.
MARGARET BRENNAN: This is the dissent cable specifically that you are requesting? That is, people within the State Department disagreeing with the policy that was the administration’s planning?
REP. MCCAUL: It’s a dissent cable, the extraordinary measure to have 23 members of the State Department at the embassy dissenting with the policy, the after action report from the ambassador. But also the plan of evacuation, just a simple plan of evacuation. What was your plan? They have failed to deliver that to Congress. Those are three key areas that we want to see compliance with.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right, Congressman, we will be watching that. I know there are a number of other issues we’ll talk to you about sometime soon, including China, but I gotta leave it there for today.