Congress to Probe Jen Psaki’s Role in Afghanistan Tragedy

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Former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki’s new book has been accused of making a false claim that President Biden never looked at his watch as deceased service members returned from Afghanistan.

In response, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul has formally requested Psaki to testify.

The committee is seeking clarification on her involvement in the Biden administration’s controversial withdrawal from Afghanistan, which tragically resulted in the deaths of 13 American servicemembers.

In a letter to Psaki’s counsel, McCaul demanded that she arrange a transcribed interview by May 28, 2024, criticizing her for promoting “untrue” narratives about the withdrawal process and the non-combatant evacuation operation during the chaotic Taliban takeover in August 2021.

“The Committee’s thorough investigation points to Ms. Psaki as having played an important role in the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the deadly August 2021 non-combatant evacuation operation,” wrote Chairman McCaul.

“As White House Press Secretary throughout this period, Ms. Psaki was charged with communicating the withdrawal to the American people and possesses key insights into the planning and decision-making regarding the Afghanistan withdrawal, the rapid Taliban takeover, and the evacuation of American citizens and Afghan allies. Ms. Psaki unfortunately advanced narratives regarding the withdrawal and evacuation that my investigation has proven untrue.”

The committee’s request comes after extensive efforts to uncover the truth behind the withdrawal, which resulted in the loss of American lives and the deaths of over 170 Afghan civilians, as well as numerous injuries.

The committee has conducted interviews with 17 officials from the U.S. Department of State and Department of Defense and has reviewed more than 10,000 pages of documents.

Adding to the controversy is Psaki’s recent memoir, where she discusses her tenure and the withdrawal. McCaul highlighted discrepancies in her account, particularly her assertion that President Biden never looked at his watch during the dignified transfer ceremony for the fallen servicemembers—a claim widely criticized and seen as disrespectful by many.

Psaki’s claim that Joe Biden never looked at his watch during a ceremony for the return of the service members who were killed during his withdrawal from Afghanistan has sparked controversy.

In a nearly perfect irony, Psaki argues that she was combating misinformation by making this statement, a notion that even some liberal news outlets are challenging.

Read the letter below:

Dear Mrs. Loeb,

Thank you for your September 18 and 28, 2023 letters on behalf of your client Jen Psaki in response to the Committee’s September 2023 request that she appear for a transcribed interview regarding her role in the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. We are also in receipt of the September 18 and 28, 2023 letters from Special Counsel to the President Richard Sauber, which fail to justify Ms. Psaki’s deliberate noncompliance with a Congressional inquiry. As a private citizen and former federal employee, the Committee expects Ms. Psaki to appear before it to answer questions regarding her role in the catastrophic withdrawal, which killed 13 U.S. servicemembers and over 170 Afghan civilians, and injured 45 U.S. servicemembers and countless Afghans.

Upon taking the chairmanship, I launched a fact-based investigation into the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in the interest of oversight and accountability, and to help prevent another such disaster from occurring in the future. To date, the Committee has interviewed 17 current and former U.S. Department of State and Department of Defense officials involved in the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. The Committee has also held numerous public hearings with senior government officials, including former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, and Commander of U.S. Central Command, General Frank McKenzie. Further, the Committee has led a rigorous discovery process, and has reviewed over 10,000 pages of agency documents, including interview notes from the Department of State’s After-Action Review led by Ambassador Dan Smith.

The Committee’s thorough investigation points to Ms. Psaki as having played an important role in the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the deadly August 2021 non-combatant evacuation operation. As White House Press Secretary throughout this period, Ms. Psaki was charged with communicating the withdrawal to the American people and possesses key insights into the planning and decision-making regarding the Afghanistan withdrawal, the rapid Taliban takeover, and the evacuation of American citizens and Afghan allies. Ms. Psaki unfortunately advanced narratives regarding the withdrawal and evacuation that my investigation has proven untrue.

It appears Ms. Psaki acknowledges her own involvement, given her recent memoir, Say More: Lessons from Work, the White House, and the World, which includes information related to the Afghanistan withdrawal, including a false claim that President Biden never looked at his watch during the ceremony for the 13 U.S. servicemembers killed under his leadership. It is troubling that Ms. Psaki seeks to profit off the Afghanistan tragedy, and has felt comfortable writing accounts and making them available to the general public, but refuses to make herself available to Congress, the branch dedicated to representing the interest and will of the American people.

Pursuant to the request for exhaustion raised in Mr. Sauber’s September 18 and 28, 2023 letters, the Committee has already attempted to obtain the information it needs to complete its investigation from the State Department, Department of Defense, and other relevant entities and individuals. It, however, has been unable to do so with respect to the narrative Ms. Psaki shaped and public relations strategy she led. My request is in accordance with standard precedent, including established practice during the Biden administration. Given that the Biden White House publicly supported Congressional interviews of former Trump officials, I fail to understand why Ms. Psaki insists on a double standard, now rejecting similar calls for accountability, unless it is her contention that the deaths of Americans and allies are not extraordinary circumstances.

Accordingly, the Committee requests that arrangements be made by Ms. Psaki to schedule her transcribed interview no later than May 28, 2024. Given the evasions by Ms. Psaki throughout this investigation, the Committee requests Ms. Psaki’s appearance before it on one of the specified dates below.

    1. June 12, 2024
    2. June 26, 2024
    3. July 9, 2024

As a private citizen, willing and able to publish a memoir on her tenure as White House Press Secretary, I encourage Ms. Psaki to refrain from relying on thin legal arguments to dodge her responsibility to appear before Congress. The Committee will not tolerate Ms. Psaki’s continued obstruction of its critical investigation and is prepared to use all the tools at its disposal to ensure America’s representatives speak with her.

I look forward to your prompt reply.

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