The following is a transcript of an interview with GOP Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas that aired Sunday, Aug. 14, 2022, on “Face the Nation.”
MARGARET BRENNAN: Saturday, the Biden administration released an updated assessment on al Qaeda in Afghanistan, citing intelligence community reports that the terror group is no longer assessed to be a threat in the country. Tomorrow marks one year since the chaotic collapse of the Afghan government as U.S. troops prepared to leave. While the administration’s full report on the much-criticized withdrawal is still a work in progress, the top Republican of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Michael McCaul’s report is complete. He’s here with us, good morning to you Congressman.
REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX): Well thanks Margaret. Thanks for having me.
MARGARET BRENNAN: This deserves a full conversation and I want to get to it. Let me do this bit of business though first on the events of the past few days. Senator Marco Rubio, who’s the Vice Chair of Senate Intelligence issued a layer- a letter saying he was outraged not to have been briefed, and he blasted the FBI saying that they have done more damage to faith and the rule of law than the Russian Federation or any other foreign adversary. Is his anger misplaced?
REP. MCCAUL: You know I think it comes on the heel— I think the Wall Street Journal did a great article about how you know after the Russian collusion, Steele Dossier, everything took place during the Trump presidency. And now out of office to have this raid take place. Look, I’m a DOJ alumni. I worked at public integrity here at main justice. And what I worry about Margaret is the lack of trust in our- and faith in our institutions that concerns me most, above all and I think when you saw the DHS bulletin about, you know, potential threats now to the agents. This is the whole fabric of our democracy, and they have lost faith, many have in the FBI and our institutions. I hate to see that. As a former federal prosecutor.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Understood and there is something like a healthy skepticism about law enforcement, certainly but for the former president to be using the language that he is when there is this level of threat against FBI agents. Would you call on him to tone it down?
REP. MCCAUL: I think it’s inflammatory. I don’t want to put any law enforcement in the bullseye of a potential threat. And that’s someone who’s worked with law enforcement most of my career. This is an extraordinary case, and what lawyers we call a case of first impression. We’ve never had a former president of the United States served with a search warrant. There was a subpoena, the court could have enforced the subpoena. That should have been a last stage process. And I would also- I agree with Brian Fitzpatrick, right. The affidavit in support of the warrant will give you the probable cause to try to understand what is going on here, and I think the American people deserve this. And I certainly think to Rubio’s point, that the Gang of 8 should have been briefed. And I believe that the relevant committees on the Hill should have access to the documents but more- most importantly, this affidavit.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we will see, it sounds like it may take some time to get some of these answers. I want to talk to you about Afghanistan. I’ve read your report. The State Department says there are about 74,000 vulnerable Afghans still stuck waiting for these VISAS to exit the country who worked with the United States government. Your report says the State Department knew going back well into the Trump administration, that it needed more staff, that it needed more resources to even begin to help get these people out. And that’s before the chaos of the withdrawal. Is that one of the prime sort of sins here that you see in terms of failure to plan?.
REP. MCCAUL: There are many sins if you will. There was a complete lack and failure to plan. There was no plan and it was- there was no plan executed. And to you know, to your point, you know, even beforehand, I think the State Department probably didn’t have the resources it needed to carry out an evacuation of this size and enormity; they had 36 consular officers at HKIA trying to process hundreds–
MARGARET BRENNAN: The airport.
REP. MCCAUL: –of thousands of people. They were overwhelmed, but there were so many mistakes. The biggest one Margaret, for me, having lived through it were, you know being in the classified space, listening to the intelligence community – tell the story about this is going to be imminent, is going to fall sooner rather than later. The military said – told us the same thing. And then we went to State and they paint- and the White House a very rosy picture there’s a disconnect between you know, intelligence on the ground and what the White House is doing in this report that says it all like there’s no way we’re going to evacuate embassy personnel from helicopters like we did in Vietnam. And of course, we know that happened.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, the criticism of this report will be that this was the minority report that it’s inherently political. And that when Republicans take the majority, if they win in November this is that this is going to be just a political line of attack. How do you respond to that?
REP. MCCAUL: You know, I- I you know, I was a federal prosecutor longer than a member of Congress. So, it’s been almost 20 years now. And I pride myself as being objective. I think this is a fairly objective report about the failures that were made. You know one of the biggest ones, was that the- the Taliban sitting with Zal Khalilzad, the special envoy and General McKenzie, the CENTCOM commander made an offer, you can take control over Kabul and secure it for purposes of evacuation–
MARGARET BRENNAN: General McKenzie said that’s not my assignment here.
REP. MCCAUL: –Not my assignment. That’s what the commander in chief told me. They do run it up to the White House, and they get no response. And then later, Jen Psaki says they wouldn’t have approved that. Think about what that would have changed. We had relied on the Taliban to secure the perimeter of HKIA. That led to the chaos. It also led to a suicide bomber that killed 13 service members – men and women and injured over hundreds of people. And it could have been avoided.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You know, the current U.S. Special Envoy for Afghan Women and Girls was out of government when this was going on. She’s quoted in your report as saying she still struggles to understand how this supposedly pre-planned negotiated inevitable withdrawal ended the way it did. It feels so much like living Schindler’s List. That’s a pretty powerful criticism. Who specifically needs to be held accountable if anyone here and is it simply just a matter of this was an intelligent failure that the government would fall as quickly as it did that the former president would have fled? How do you respond to that, that there was an inability to plan for this because it was not predicted?
REP. MCCAUL: Well, the intelligence community got it right. So there was no failure on the intelligence side nor the Pentagon. They called it right. The problem was the White House and and- and State Department putting their head in the sand, not wanting to believe what they were saying, and therefore not adequately planning. And I think to your point, the women left behind is the- is the worst of this entire story, I tried- I got four busloads of little girls from music school out, but the Schindler’s List, you know, if you’re on the list, you’re going to live if you’re not on the list, you’re probably going to die. 100,000 Afghan partners left behind- remember what we said we will protect you. That was our promise them, no one left behind, and we left them behind to the mercy of the Taliban, and now they’re being tortured and killed.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The State Department says that it has tried to comply with your committee. We await their full report of their own actions. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.
REP. MCCAUL: They’ve not- they’ve not- they’ve not complied with our investigation
MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you for your time today.