Transcript: House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Michael McCaul on “Face the Nation,” March 24, 2024


The following is a transcript of an interview with House Foreign Affairs Committe chairman Rep. Michael McCaul, Republican of Texas, that aired on March 24, 2024.


MARGARET BRENNAN: And we’re joined now by the Republican chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Texas Congressman Michael McCaul. Good to have you here in person this morning. 

HOUSE FOREIGN RELATIONS CHAIRMAN REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL: Thanks for having me, Margaret. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Chair McCaul, this attack in Moscow was carried out by ISIS-K, a group that typically emanates out of Afghanistan. We know the US had advanced warning from what you know, is there an ongoing threat in Eurasia and are US interests a target?

REP. MCCAUL: Yeah, I believe so. I think that the CENTCOM Commander, General Kurilla, just testified this week before Congress that within six months that ISIS-K would have the capability to operate outside of Afghanistan to do external operations. And it only took six days before they hit Moscow- or outside of Moscow. And I think Europe is of concern. And it’s sort of like we’re going back to that old playbook where history repeats itself. And that’s why the fall of Afghanistan, the way it was done, and the way we left it with no ISR capability- that intelligence surveillance reconnaissance- puts us in danger, where this is a new battleground training ground for ISIS. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, the US did, though, have some ears on this if they warned Russia, right? 

REP. MCCAUL: — Correct. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: — That ISIS was a threat here. You in your committee, you have been very focused on Afghanistan and you held a hearing with retired generals Mark Milley and Frank McKenzie this past week. They both said the State Department failed to adequately plan for the withdrawal from an evacuation from Afghanistan. Given the threat environment the US is facing right now on multiple continents at once, Haiti, Niger, all the Middle East, are you confident that the United States government is prepared to protect its people in all of those posts and carry out evacuations if needed?

REP. MCCAUL: I’m very concerned. I think what happened in Haiti- our embassy is under threat right now. We’re starting to evacuate them. You know what happened in Afghanistan, the generals are very clear. It wasn’t the DoD, it was a State Department that never came up with a plan of evacuation, which by law they’re required to do. And so what happens if you– 

MARGARET BRENNAN: — Well, it was too late when it was put into place. There was a plan to– 

REP. MCCAUL:– It was put in place, but only at the time that Kabul was falling, and the embassy was starting to be evacuated. I think what the State Department thought they could do is continue our operations in the embassy and normalize with the Taliban and stay there beyond the- the military retrograde and I think that was a serious error in judgment. Ambassador Wilson, was the major culprit behind that, including all the way up to the White House. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, the State Department has pointed out that the Trump administration that brokered the deal for withdrawal could have planned for an evacuation and did not. What do you make of that? 

REP. MCCAUL: Yeah, they- they’re by law required to plan. I think DOD was starting to pick up the slack. No, we saw the threats coming in the threat vectors. The IC was telling us it was going to fall fast. The DoD knew this and the State Department seemed to have these rose colored lenses on. When you listen to the White House, you know, press comments about our it’s not gonna be like Vietnam, everything’s fine. And it wasn’t. That’s what we had the dissent cable come out from the embassy- 23 employees, a cry for help, screaming to get out of there, because they knew what was going to happen.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The government funding bill that was signed last night, 12,000 additional special visas to Afghan nationals who had worked with the US were tucked into this funding bill. What more needs to be done to help the Afghan allies who worked alongside the US?

REP. MCCAUL: Well, we promised them, we will get them out. The Afghan partners, the interpreters, we left them behind. And that’s the biggest sin of the Afghan evacuation. I think the 12,000 SIVs is a great response and a great start to that. I will commend Speaker Johnson. I worked very closely with him to make sure we had that in there because on one hand, Republicans can say oh, my gosh, we left them behind, but then we’re not gonna do anything to help them get out with visas.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So has Speaker Johnson given you any timeline for a vote on Ukraine aid given that they are running out of ammunition?

REP. MCCAUL: His commitment is to put it on the floor after Easter. And we are working on this bill.

MARGARET BRENNAN: As soon as you all come back April 9?

REP. MCCAUL: I would like to be done as soon as possible. I think the situation in Ukraine is dire. The front lines are- it’s- we can’t- if we lose in Ukraine like Afghanistan and- and lose to Putin let him,you know, take over Ukraine and Moldova, Georgia and abandon our allies like we did in Afghanistan. Does that make the United States weaker or stronger? I think weaker.  

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why isn’t there that sense of urgency on the speaker’s part? I mean, respectfully, this has been stuck in the house for weeks. You have been warning about this and needs to be acted on. 

REP. MCCAUL: He understands this. He is in a very difficult spot. And this motion to vacate the chair thing, I believe he’s committed because he understands national security- he leans on, you know, myself, the Chairman of Armed Services, House Intelligence for advice on this. And he knows how important this is.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you trust that this will be voted on because as you just mentioned, that motion to vacate was just introduced by Marjorie Taylor Greene. This is an effort to oust him. She has put this in place. You’re all headed home to your districts. You are all going to be asked about this. She’s the only one so far saying she wants to oust the Speaker. Will she stay the only one? 

REP. MCCAUL: You know, I think it’s indicative that even Matt Gaetz, who is the architect of ousting McCarthy, is saying this would be a huge mistake, because he could actually throw the balance of power over to Hakeem Jeffries. I think that’s one argument. The other argument is we don’t need dysfunction right now. And with the world on fire, the way it is– 

MARGARET BRENNAN: — Don’t we have dysfunction right now? 

REP. MCCAUL: Well, we do and with the world on fire the way it is, we need to govern. And that is not just for Republicans, but in a bipartisan way. Get things done for the country that’s in the national security interest of the United States. This is not just Ukraine, it’s Israel and Indo-Pacific as well.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Before I let you go, 11 aid organizations have issued a letter saying that Israel is standing in the way of aid deliveries in Gaza, their firsthand experience. Do you doubt their testimonies? 

REP. MCCAUL: I think we were having difficulties. I talked to, you know, Cindy McCain yesterday, World Food Programme. David Beasley, her predecessor. Look, logistics and security are the issue. Israel knows it’s important to get that humanitarian assistance in, because for a lot of reasons. We have to stabilize southern Gaza but they also need to go into Rafah and take out Yahya Sinwar, the head of Hamas, so that’s a competing interest here. Unfortunately, ceasefire talks, I think Hamas is playing us, playing Director Burns. Talk to, you know, the Israelis, they agreed to the ratio. I don’t think Hamas will. They’re not playing fair.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Chair McCaul, thank you for your time today.

REP. MCCAUL: Margaret. Thanks for having me.



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