Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) excoriated Secretary of State Antony Blinken during the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing Monday, erupting into a heating exchange when he grilled the State head about the Biden administration misleading the public over the chaotic Afghanistan withdrawal, saying the American people “don’t need to hear lies.”
Mast, a veteran who lost both his legs in Afghanistan after a 2010 bomb blast, began his questioning confronting Blinken about the final call President Biden had with former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in July and asked whether the U.S. president “worked with the coward exiled president of Afghanistan to manipulate the intelligence about the Taliban.” The leaked transcript Mast referred to was the July 23 phone call Biden had with the former Afghan President. The president urged his Afghan counterpart to change the “perception” of the Afghan security force’s failing opposition against the Taliban offensive “whether it is true or not.”
“Mr. Secretary, as the leaked transcript as you refer to it says, did President Biden work with the coward exiled president of Afghanistan to manipulate intelligence about the Taliban?” Mast asked Blinken.
Blinken pushed back in defense of Biden, saying what the president told Ghani privately was “exactly what he said in public.”
“That the issue was not whether Afghanistan has the capacity to withstand the Taliban. It’s whether it had the will and the plan to do so,” Blinken responded to Mast.
“So you are saying the transcript is a lie,” Mast interjected. “It’s false. It’s a lie. It’s incorrect. He did not work to tamp down the intelligence on the Taliban.”
“Absolutely not,” Blinken responded.
“So the transcript is incorrect. That your testimony today,” Mast pressed on.
“The intelligence that we had, that we’ve already discussed at some at some length about what the assessments were of the Taliban and its capacity to take over the country,” Blinken asserted, offering little explanation of the intelligence assessments he mentioned prior to the heated exchange with Mast.
The Florida Republican then showed photos of the 13 U.S. service members killed by a terrorist attack targeting the Kabul airport by ISIS-K during the final few days of the withdrawal.
“They deserve to know if you manipulated intelligence if President Biden manipulated intelligence, and that’s what led to everything going so wrong,” Mast said as he began holding up the photos of all fallen 13 service members, reading their names, ages, and quotes from their families while telling Blinken their families “deserve [the] most to really hear the honest answers” if that’s what happened in Afghanistan.
“We deserve hearings on what’s going on with that leak transcript. We deserve to know why there are others that remain in Afghanistan,” Mast said after reading the names and showing the photos of each of the fallen troops. “These are things that have to be answered for.”
“I do not believe whatsoever what you’re saying about the administration not working to manipulate that intelligence. To me, that is the most logical — the most logical explanation of how so many in the intelligence community got this so wrong about what was going to happen in Afghanistan. Why would it seem somehow logical for President Biden to leave the ‘most advanced military weaponry.’ Why some would not speak out against that — if they were getting the false intelligence because it was coming from the top down, to manipulate it, in my opinion, that’s absolutely aid and comfort to the enemy. I absolutely wonder if you are complicit in this as well. I find it hard to believe that President Biden would do that without you being aware of this; these are things that we deserve to know better answers, have better hearings on this. I do not believe a word that you’re saying on this,” Mast added.
Blinken attempted to respond, saying, “Simply put,” but Mast prevented the Secretary of State from continuing to speak, leading to a heated an explosive exchange between the two.
“I do not wish to hear from you,” Mast fired back as Blinken attempted to talk over the Florida lawmaker. “I’m not giving you a moment of time. I’m not yielding you a moment of time. I don’t wish to hear your lies. I don’t want to hear your lies.”
House Foreign Affairs Chairman Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) interjected between the chaos, defending Blinken to let him respond to Mast while preventing the Florida Republican from speaking, saying his time had expired.
“So has the secretary,” Mast said, as Meeks defended Blinken, “The secretary can answer the question.”
“I didn’t ask him a question,” Mast stated. “I don’t want to hear from the secretary,” Mast said, but Meeks spoke over the Florida congressman, repeating that his time had expired, banging the gavel to restore order.
“We don’t need to hear lies. He lies to us when he steps in front of the camera; that’s what he does,” Mast repeated.
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman,” Blinken said after Meeks allowed him the opportunity to respond. “Just to respond briefly: what the congressman said is simply wrong. Period. Second, I think virtually every member of this committee has had access to or been apprised of the intelligence assessments throughout the year, and you know what they were. You know what they are. And we will continue to provide those assessments and those briefings in the months ahead.”
“You’ve heard the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff say that he has not seen anything that indicated to him or to anyone else that the Afghan government and military would collapse in 11 days. The Director of National Intelligence has said that even in the days leading up to the Taliban takeover, the intelligence agencies did not say the collapse was imminent. This unfolded more quickly than we anticipated, including in the intelligence community. And I could go on. So what has been said and alleged is simply not true,” Blinken added.
Blinken, in his first appearance before Congress since the chaotic Afghanistan withdrawal, testified virtually from his office at the State Department rather than making the short trip to Capitol Hill, failed a provide any answers to the probing questions from GOP lawmakers, including reasons why he was testifying from his office at Foggy Bottom. During the approximately five-hour House hearing, Blinken repeatedly insisted that the botched withdrawal of U.S troops from Afghanistan that claimed the lives of 13 service members was former President Trump’s fault, not his boss — Biden. Both Blinken and Democrats on the committee, who defended the Secretary of State and Biden argued that the Biden administration’s hands were tied by a deal the Trump administration had negotiated last year, ignoring the fact the Trump’s agreement had a conditions-based clause, where the U.S. could have withdrawn anytime from the accord. Blinken also insisted during his response to pressing GOP questions that the Biden administration made the “right decision” to end America’s longest war, despite the fact on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, the Taliban celebrated by raising their flag over the presidential palace.
The Secretary of State will also testify Tuesday before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee.