Aug 25, 2021

House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy Weekly Press Conference Transcript August 25

House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy Weekly Press Conference Transcript August 25
RevBlogTranscriptsHouse GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy Weekly Press Conference Transcript August 25

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy held his weekly press conference on August 25, 2021. He criticized Democrat leaders for the response in Afghanistan. Read the transcript of the full briefing here.

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Kevin McCarthy: (00:00)
Something I didn’t think that would play out the way it played, but less than 24 hours just to go, President Biden made the decision not to shift the August 31st deadline to withdraw our troops from Afghanistan, even though some of our strongest allies from France and Britain and Germany requested it. Think for one moment why is the UK and France and Germany there? Because 20 years ago, America was attacked. They were there to help defend us and they requested a stay, to go longer so their own citizens could get removed. The president now made the announcement that he will not, allowing the Taliban to direct our foreign policy.

Kevin McCarthy: (00:51)
Now, with the very real prospect of thousands of Americans still stranded in Afghanistan on September 1st, the Biden administration is willing to accept the fact that they’ll be leaving Americans behind in a Taliban stronghold. The president’s misguided decisions run the risk of creating the largest international hostage situation we have ever faced as a nation. Yesterday, President Biden had an opportunity to address the public and answer questions about the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan. Instead, he made us wait a number of hours and then touted a $5 trillion liberal wishlist that will increase greater inflation and transform our country in the worst way possible. Then, he delivered a few minutes worth of remarks on the evacuation efforts, but did not say how many Americans are still stranded.

Kevin McCarthy: (01:47)
The most embarrassing part though, is that he refused to take questions and he turned his back and walked away, an image that has come to define him and his presidency. He turned his back on our own citizens stranded in Afghanistan. He turned our back on our allies and partners. He’s turned his back on his duties as a commander-in-chief. We have a Democrat majority that is following the same path.

Kevin McCarthy: (02:15)
Speaker Pelosi called an emergency session just this week. We weren’t the only country to do so. In the UK, they called the parliament back, but the difference in the UK, their focus was on their citizens in Afghanistan and getting them out. Pelosi worked late into the night, why we’re here, but nothing to do with Afghanistan. Speaker Pelosi asked the help of the president to make phone calls, not to pass any bills to put resources to get more Americans out of Afghanistan, it was to pass a close to $5 trillion, not to debate it, but to deem it. Every single Democrat voted for that and every single Democrat voted against Congressman Gallagher’s PQ that would ask that we could get the number on a daily basis of how many Americans are in Afghanistan and to stay until the mission is done, that all Americans are out.

Kevin McCarthy: (03:16)
The $5 trillion, not one cent will be used in the situation of Afghanistan. It’s a complete failure of leadership. If you listened to speaker Pelosi’s speech yesterday, great day of pride for America and Democrats. A great day of pride for American Democrats. That’s what Speaker Pelosi said on the floor, not mentioning any gold star families, not mentioning the veterans, even those who serve in her own conference, who she, had she stayed the whole hearing, could have heard the comments that they made inside the briefing, the frustration that they felt as well. I can’t imagine the amount of pain being caused to our veterans. We’re less than just three weeks away from the 20th anniversary.

Kevin McCarthy: (04:09)
I want to take a moment. I want to speak directly to them, to the gold star families and to the veterans. You did everything your country asked of you. You should be proud that you helped take the fight to the enemy, and you prevented a major terrorist attack from happening on our own soil. For those veterans who understandably need some extra support during this time, know that you are not alone. Please do not hesitate to reach out for help contact for the veterans crisis line call 1-800-273-8255. That’s 1-800-273-8255 or text 838-255. The website is We are grateful for your service and we’ll never forget the sacrifices each and everyone have made. You deserve a government who will not stop until all Americans are out of Afghanistan. We will continue to hold them accountable and that is what our mission is.

Kevin McCarthy: (05:17)
I know there has been a great deal amount of mistakes and one of the greatest tragedies this country has seen on a foreign policy level. Right now, our whole focus should be just getting Americans out, but there has to be accountability in the future that this mistake can never happen again. There’s many places we’ll have to look, not just from the State Department, the intel, the decisions that are being made, but even in Congress itself. This Democrat majority and [inaudible 00:05:48] shift shifted the entire intel committee to be one of impeachment and political. What did we miss? Devin Nunez has warned us time and before the number of hearings they wanted to look on an international basis of what’s the threats out there. We now have a border that is open. When I traveled to it earlier this year, it was then that we found we had been arresting people on the terrorist watch list from Yemen.

Kevin McCarthy: (06:16)
When I brought forth that on a press conference, I was criticized by Democrats, Congressman [inaudible 00:06:24]. He said, I was not telling the truth. I was lying. He has not apologized for that. We now have 5,000 prisoners that were released in Afghanistan. We have more than a hundred different countries of individuals coming across our southern border. We have a president that opened it up. Now is the time to close it. This country is less safe today than we were 20 years ago based upon the actions that have just taken place, allowing Taliban to control our foreign policy, weaponizing them, reports now that they have more Black Hawks than Australia. From the aircraft to the drones to the weaponry, they have more support than they had before just from their own military buildup of the weapons that they’ve taken from America. Now, a border that is open and a fear of what the future holds. This has all got to change, and the presidency has to change its foreign policy as well. With that, let’s open it up for questions. Yes ma’am?

Reporter: (07:35)
Thank you Mr. McCarthy. Two members have gone to Afghanistan yesterday. Can I get your reaction to their trip? What are you advising members who are interested in going to Afghanistan and neighboring countries at this time?

Kevin McCarthy: (07:47)
Not to go. We need the military, all their effort used on bringing people back home. These are two individuals who I didn’t know transpired that they went until after they were there. They’re both veterans and they’re both frustrated …

Kevin McCarthy: (08:03)
They’re both veterans and they’re both frustrated. They have an administration that won’t tell them the answers to how many Americans are left or those Afghans that actually probably worked with them and helped them. They feel frustrated. They come back in a special session and no time is spent.

Kevin McCarthy: (08:17)
Yesterday, we were allowed 90 minutes to have a briefing. While people were still lined up, a number of members, the Democrats shut it down, and said, “No, we have to have a hard break to go back and debate the $5 trillion bill.” I objected. I thought this was more important, but they would not allow them to even be able to talk to the Secretary of State… Secretary of Defense and others lined up, Republicans and Democrats alike. But that’s what they chose the time to do.

Kevin McCarthy: (08:48)
So, yes, it’s not the best idea to go there, but I understand their frustration by the lack of any answers from this administration, from a Speaker who spends late into the night, late into the night, you all covered it, into her office. Not one moment of that time was spent on getting Americans home from Afghanistan. What do you think those Americans were doing late at night, trying to find a path to get to that airport? That the President told them it was safe to go, but now we’re finding they were beaten. Not one moment was spent on, not one dollar was passed this time in Congress. Five trillion just deemed, not debated. None of that money going to help an American get back.

Kevin McCarthy: (09:32)
And then they pass a political campaign bill to change election law. They are the most self-serving individuals that showed this week than at any given time. Of all weeks of what we should have focused upon, not any moments of time to do it.

Kevin McCarthy: (09:56)
So, yes, I don’t think it’s right that they went, but I understand their frustration of why they would want to go. By the lack of answers they were getting, the time they served their nation, the individuals they knew over there, the calls, all members are getting calls of people stuck there. They’re frustrated, trying to work with the State Department. Can’t get answers. They realize it’s life and death. So yes, they made a decision to try to do something on their own.

Reporter: (10:20)
Are you hearing from members that might be going, and are you hearing from [crosstalk 00:10:26]

Kevin McCarthy: (10:25)
Any member that I’ve heard that might go, I’ve explained to them that I don’t think they should. I think it creates a greater risk. You’ve got enough Americans over there that are being held hostage. They’d make a point out of a member of Congress. I think you’d take military away from doing their job of getting as many Americans out we can. How many know that they’re going to be left? The President now has made the date the 31st. The 31st is when everybody needs to be gone, so they’re going to start pulling military out now.

Kevin McCarthy: (10:56)
We watched… What the President told us that the Taliban would let you go to the airport. The Taliban is now shutting it down. We watched that people are being beaten, but that’s the report that we’re getting. I watched the President have a press conference and walk away afterwards, and 30 minutes later have a conference call with the Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, joint chiefs, and they contradict what the President just told us. Why wouldn’t we spend our time on that while we’re in Congress? Why are we departing now? The Speaker has control over that. The same way that she changed the Intel Committee with Adam Schiff to be a political committee, instead of looking. We’re three co-equal branches. We should’ve been having hearings on what’s going on over there. We should have been able to gather that they would collapse this fast, but Adam Schiff was too focused on impeachment than in doing the job he was supposed to do.

Kevin McCarthy: (11:53)
Yes, sir.

Speaker 1: (11:55)
[inaudible 00:11:55] just to clarify something you said to her real quick, before I ask you one other thing. What could the House have passed this week that would have made a material or immediate difference in Afghanistan with the Senate gone until September? You said that the Speaker didn’t do anything to set aside money.

Kevin McCarthy: (12:13)
She didn’t do anything set aside time, even [crosstalk 00:12:16].

Speaker 1: (12:16)
Done this week?

Kevin McCarthy: (12:17)
The speaker at many times… As you know, your values says a lot about you. Time is of your value, right? How much time did we spend on this while the world was watching? How much time did we spend on it where Afghans were clinging to our planes and falling off? How much time do we spend on finding more Americans that were actually there?

Kevin McCarthy: (12:35)
What we could have done is actually take up Gallagher’s bill. Tell us how many Americans are there right now. Make a statement of Congress where we’re co-equal branches that we will not leave until every American comes home. At the very least, that’s what we should’ve done. We should’ve held hearings of what more do we need there? Do we need more troops there to make sure it’s safer to get people home faster? Then do it. Send the message to the President.

Kevin McCarthy: (13:08)
We’re our own body. We can speak for ourselves and we should. But under this majority, the Speaker decided we would not. The only thing we would speak about is $5 trillion for socialist wishlist. They care more about their socialist spending than they do saving Americans’ lives because that’s what they spent their time on, that’s what they spent their emotion on. That’s what they even brought the President in to call their own members. They threaten their own members’ spouses’ jobs. They threatened political money for a campaign just to vote. They made no threat to save American lives. They cut us off when members were standing in line to have a discussion with the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense and the joint chiefs. They said, “No, we had a hard and fast time period. It has to be over. We have to get back to the floor to debate everything but Afghanistan.” While members from both parties were standing in line, requesting the opportunity. So, yes, there’s a lot that we could have done.

Kevin McCarthy: (14:09)

Bob: (14:10)
The January 6th Committee is issuing a document preservation request to telecom companies for the contacts of that day. And there’s been suggestions that lawmakers would also be part of that documentation request. Are you aware of it? And in terms of your own records, would you just turn them over to the committee, if they asked?

Kevin McCarthy: (14:35)
Well, the only thing I learned more about this committee is more political that it is. You have reports now that the FBI is finished with their report. I think it goes against everything, the politics of the Democrats want to believe. You now watched the Democrats in a time of Afghanistan, that they want to use their majority power to get people’s phone records. They come for members of Congress, they’re coming for everybody soon. It’s amusing to me of how political they will go with this.

Kevin McCarthy: (15:08)
I told the American public who I talked to that day. I literally went and talked to the American public on three different networks that day. I don’t know… The real question has to be the other report that came out this week is that the FBI told the Capitol Police beforehand there was a threat. They knew on December 14th there was problems. They had inspector general reports of the failures of the top leadership and Capitol Police was not allowing them to have the training. They had the Kavanaugh hearings where the lines were broke. You had a chairman of House administration, that is the essence the mayor of the city, that had not been back to the Capitol since early May. That didn’t take up any of it. You had a Republican on House administration that offered legislation and changes, correcting which the inspector general found, which-

Kevin McCarthy: (16:03)
Just correcting which Inspector General found, which never the majority allowing it to come forward. What’s interesting to me is this so political of a committee that the speaker picks and chooses who can be on. The chairman of committee says nothing’s off limits, but the speaker, the reports at time of again, was the speaker offered the National Guard and told ahead of time of the warning, but apparently they don’t want that information. Yes.

Speaker 2: (16:29)
Do you think that the Democrats are trying to continue this until the 2022 elections?

Kevin McCarthy: (16:35)
Listen, if I was the Democrats, I’d stop playing politics and I’d start focusing on the American people. You’ve got Americans stranded in Afghanistan, focus on that. You have the biggest foreign policy failure, pretty much my lifetime. Why wouldn’t you have hearings on that? Why wouldn’t you put a committee together [inaudible 00:16:57] that? You got an Intel committee chaired by Adam Schiff that spent the time to make a political announcement it’s time on the other committee as well. You watch the failures under his own watch. I think there’s a lot of correcting going on that I would focus on that the American people would expect. Yes.

Speaker 3: (17:13)
You got a bipartisan infrastructure bill that now it sounds like you know when you’re going to have a vote on it, September 27th, I guess, is the day. Have you made a decision one way or the other on if you’ll whip members against that or tell your members to vote their conscience on it?

Kevin McCarthy: (17:27)
Look, I don’t support that bill. That bill started out promised to all in America that’d be paid for. It’s not paid for.

Speaker 3: (17:35)
Are you going to tell your members to vote again, sir?

Kevin McCarthy: (17:37)
Look, our members and I will have a discussion about it, but after this week it doesn’t seem like it’s an infrastructure bill. The progressive now told us it’s going to be a $5 trillion bill. You can’t have one without the other. It’s viewed much different to me than what it was viewed a week ago. I was opposed to it.

Speaker 3: (17:53)
[crosstalk 00:17:53].

Kevin McCarthy: (17:53)
Well, we’ll see where it goes, but I don’t expect Republicans thinking they’re going to vote for a $5 trillion bill.

Speaker 4: (18:00)
It sounds like you are for, excuse me, leaving some sort of true presence in Afghanistan if you were in charge.

Kevin McCarthy: (18:07)

Speaker 4: (18:08)
What would that look like and what would their mission be and how long would you anticipate-

Kevin McCarthy: (18:13)
The first thing you would want to have not done is give Bagram Air Base up. That’s where the prisoners were as well. You had two runways, not one. You had an outsert that you would have another ability to move people out. For the last year, we had a small number of troops, less than that we have today there. You didn’t for 18 months have one casualty. You had those who were Christians. Those who had helped us in Afghanistan, not being beaten or de-headed. You have comedians not being killed at that time, too. You actually had some peace in the country. I think that was working for the president, and this is why we should have hearings on this. What information was given, who knew what when, and for the president of the stand just approximately a month beforehand and tell us it would not fall, it’s this 300,000 strong military, but to criticize those in the Afghan, who’ve lost thousands in the military fighting with us to pull out the air cover. I think those are the things we should have some hearings about to get to the answer that we never make. This type of mistake again.

Speaker 4: (19:23)
Was President Trump wrong to agree to withdraw troops?

Kevin McCarthy: (19:25)
Well, President Trump had actually decreased the troops from 15,000 to 2,500 and not one casualty. President Trump’s-

Speaker 4: (19:33)
There was [crosstalk 00:19:33] withdrawal.

Kevin McCarthy: (19:34)
It wasn’t this deal. I mean, Mike Pompeo and President Trump has been very clear about this. Even the former secretary defensive and very clear about this. There were requirements that had to be met. You watch time and again, whenever the Taliban did not meet the requirement, there was ramifications for that, quick, swift and very difficult. The other thing that you’d have to think about in the Taliban, they watch this president time and again with a crisis, back away from Putin, ransomware, pay it. China, provide them. I just read a report before I walked out here, allow Huawei chips to be sold. The idea that Russia could have their pipeline, but America cannot. I felt they think they were more emboldened. As they move city to city, I know for a fact that President Trump wouldn’t allowed that, that didn’t meet the requirements. For the President Biden to sit back in an interview and say, nothing went wrong, that’s a tell tale line, and that you plan for every scenario. Well, whoever started planning this should have stopped when the scenario started. Lives are going to be lost. The president has now ruined our reputation on the world stage, not for a week, but for decades to come. Our own allies are criticizing us. Our own allies who are sitting there defending us because America was attacked, asking us to extend the deadline so they can get their own citizens home, not for any other reason. The allies that we have fought for years together, he said no, and yes to the Taliban. No, none of that would’ve happened under a different administration. Yes, that was a failure. One of the biggest failures I’ve watched from a foreign policy in my lifetime, and it’s going to do a lot of damage to us, not just in a short run, but a long run. What does China believe now about Taiwan? What does Russia think about the Baltics or Eastern Europe? Not only when you talk, Jake, about the base, think of the location of where it is. The president talks about looking over, having eyes ahead of time. That base proximity to Russia, to China, to Pakistan, the idea of terrorists coming again from Afghanistan. You now when you move people out, you don’t have the Intel.

Speaker 4: (22:07)
The administration says, since you bring up the base, that they don’t have a capacity problem, and Bagram is two and a half hours from Kabul. They say in their estimation, there’s very little strategic value in getting people out to keeping it open. They say, that’s their estimation. They say most of the people they’re trying to evacuate are in Kabul-

Kevin McCarthy: (22:25)
They also said the Afghan government, when collapsed, they’ve said a lot … They’ve also said you could get to the airport. They’ve also said a lot of things-

Speaker 4: (22:33)
[crosstalk 00:22:33], some things, they’ve been right on some things, but on Bagram-

Kevin McCarthy: (22:35)
No, they have not been right at all. Think about Bagram. You have two runways. You have one runway. Do you think every single American is sitting in Kabul? Bagram is not that far from Kabul.

Speaker 4: (22:46)
Two and a half hours.

Kevin McCarthy: (22:47)
Why wouldn’t you have two different options? You have other people throughout this country, and if you built a military base there where we had sustained it for 20 years, why wouldn’t you maintain it? We keep a base in Cuba today. Why wouldn’t we keep a base for forward-looking? Why wouldn’t we keep a base in that geographical region of the world? Why would we release it? Why, if there was not one casualty in the last 18 months and only 2,500 troops had to be there, we were securing what we need to do. Why would you give it up? First and foremost, if you were going to draw down, the Taliban fights in the summer and hibernates in the winter, if you are going to allow the Afghan government to sustain itself, why would you draw down when the Taliban is at its height?

Kevin McCarthy: (23:41)
Why? Who made that decision? Why would you remove the military before you remove the civilians? Why would the president just days before says he’s going to maintain normal operations in the embassy? How could we be that far wrong? No, they didn’t get anything right, and no, when he stands before us and tells us it’s …

Kevin McCarthy: (24:03)
… get anything right. And no, when he stands before us and tells us it’s safe to go and then you find out 30 minutes later it’s not, I don’t believe it was right to close the base. And you asked me a question, I would have kept it open.

Speaker 5: (24:13)
[inaudible 00:24:13].

Kevin McCarthy: (24:13)
I would have kept open. It gives you more options.

Speaker 5: (24:17)
Mm-hmm (affirmative). If you’re holding a gavel next year, would you want to see a select committee look into this?

Kevin McCarthy: (24:21)
Look, we have-

Speaker 5: (24:22)
Do it all in one?

Kevin McCarthy: (24:23)
No. We have a tremendous benefit here in Congress, not just on the Republican side, but the Democrat side too, of a number of members who served in the military from all aspects. If you just listen to the newest member of Congress, Jake Ellzey, this guy flew F-18s. He didn’t just fly F-18s. And you know who his wingman was? Mike Garcia off the aircraft carrier. But he also went into Afghanistan as a targeting person. He did it with Morgan Luttrell who happens to be running for Congress, twin brother Marcus Luttrell. Morgan was a Navy Seal. Normally you only go for about three days. They got stuck there for 30 days, ran out of food in six. These are people that have been there. You have Navy Seals. You heard from Brian Mast who lost his legs, to Dan Crenshaw.

Kevin McCarthy: (25:17)
You have Crow on the other side of the aisle. We have people who have such expertise who are on the ground and knowing, I would take it through all committees, from Armed Services to Foreign Affairs to Intel. And I would change Intel Committee back to the purpose of what their responsibility was. They have a responsibility of overseeing the agencies, but what did they do? They turned it to look within. They spent it as a political arm. Impeachment has never gone through the Intel Committee until the Democrats made it political. How much time had Adam Schiff spent of looking around the world of what his responsibility is? And when you’re on the Intel Committee, you learn things that other members do not know, but he spent all of his time on politics. So yeah, I would look at that and what failure he created too.

Speaker 6: (26:09)
Leader McCarthy. So you said that you are discouraging members from going to Afghanistan, but you also said you understand the frustration of Congressman Moulton and Congressman Meyer. That is part of the justification that they are giving that they’re frustrated with the inability to conduct oversight from over here with the shaky intelligence. Are you concerned that some of your more, I want to say impressionable members are going to take you saying that you understand this frustration as simply a mental encouragement to make these trips?

Kevin McCarthy: (26:40)
No, I just watched Speaker Pelosi answer that question. I think that’s the most time she spent on Afghanistan all week, and it offended me. It offended me as an American. She spent her time to criticize somebody. Look, they shouldn’t go. These people are veterans. You know what they came when they got called back here? I talked to Peter Meyer a couple of different times. I’ll show you the texts that he sent me was working to get people out. That’s with his time … He was frustrated. You know how many calls I would get about the State Department they won’t answer?

Kevin McCarthy: (27:16)
I got an interpreter I worked with, their families, they’re stuck inside a house, they don’t know that they can go out. Or an American family and they’re frustrated as a member of Congress trying to help these individuals, getting nowhere in sight. And they come back to Congress, call back in a special and all they spend their time on is $5 trillion.

Speaker 6: (27:33)
Did you say you talked to Meyer during the trip?

Kevin McCarthy: (27:36)
No, this was prior. I knew nothing of Meyer taking … Meyer never talked to me about the trip. Never asked my opinion, never asked for approval.

Speaker 6: (27:44)
Have you talked to him since?

Speaker 7: (27:45)
Will he face disciple for not getting approval before he went? Will he face any sort of disciplined for not getting approval before he went and to in fact, discourage other ones who might have a notion to go?

Kevin McCarthy: (27:55)
I don’t think others really have the opportunity to go since everything’s being pulled out. And I don’t think it’s smart for others to go. You’re putting yourself … not yourself in harm’s way, but you’re putting Americans in harm’s way, if the military has to protect you, which they will do, and they should not.

Reporter: (28:11)
Are you interested in leading a codel at some point to Afghanistan or a neighboring country in the near future?

Kevin McCarthy: (28:17)
I’ve been to Afghanistan before. I don’t know if it’s going to be able to have a codel. Do you think the Taliban is going to be a friendly government we’re going to go interchange with? Maybe the president thinks so, but I don’t see that. I think what we’re going to have to spend some time on now is things that we didn’t have to spend time before. We’re going to have to reassure our allies that we’ll still keep our word.

Kevin McCarthy: (28:44)
A number of allies, and from ambassadors and leaders I’ve spoken to question what America will do in the future. You watch our allies try to build a bigger relationship with China now or with Russia because they kept their words. Whereas we just had a president go against everything that America has stood for in the past. Made a decision, won’t answer questions. We even have reports that Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of the UK had to wait 36 hours to get a return phone call as Afghanistan was collapsing. Can you imagine that? That our president’s sitting at Camp David and if the reports are true, how can that be possible? They are there with their military, risking their lives because America was attacked. They want to get their citizens out, and they’re relying on our president just to try to get a phone call back. And when he has a G7 meeting and they all request, “Can we have more time?” He lets the Taliban decide the date, not the situation on the ground.

Speaker 4: (29:59)
One more question, sir. On the refugees, the Afghan refugees, do you have a view on what’s going on, how the administration is handling it? And-

Kevin McCarthy: (30:09)
Yeah, I’m concerned because reports I’m told those who were early at the airport were not our interpreters who worked with us and others. The individuals that are leaving Afghanistan that are Afghans need to go to a third country and they have to be screened. We need to keep our word, but our word was from a standpoint, I will tell you from an ISIS, from Al-Qaeda and from a Taliban point of view, do you think they’ll take advantage of this situation? Do you think they put some people in there? I pretty much believe they would. Just as we have people on the terrorist watch lists coming into our open borders that need to stop, and that’s something that the president has caused as well. Thank you.

Speaker 6: (30:55)
In your screen, would you support taking tens of thousands of Afghan SIV applicants into the country recently-

Kevin McCarthy: (31:00)
Let’s see who they are, and let’s see what our promises are and let’s keep them. Thank you all.

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