Aug 27, 2021
Kevin McCarthy Press Conference Transcript: “There Will Be a Day of Reckoning” for Biden
House Minority GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy held a press conference on August 27, 2021 to address the attack at the Kabul airport. He said Biden will face a “day of reckoning” for his response in Afghanistan. Read the transcript of the briefing here.
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Kevin McCarthy: (00:00)
Speaker 2: (00:00)
Speaker 3: (00:00)
Speaker 4: (00:00)
Speaker 5: (00:00)
Kevin McCarthy: (00:03)
Yesterday was a catastrophic day for our nation and our military. Remind me of the words of John 15:13, there’s no greater love than lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Americans troops were targeted and attacked by ISIS suicide bombers in Kabul. 10 U.S. Marines died in the blast. Two soldiers lost their lives and one Navy medic was killed and 18 other service members were seriously injured. It was the deadliest day for our military in more than a decade. Dozens of Afghans were also killed or wounded, including innocent children. To these new 13 Gold Star families. My message to you is this, your loved ones died as heroes. We will always honor their memories and we pray that you will know peace.
Kevin McCarthy: (01:03)
Those who died actually knew there was a threat of an attack and they carried out their mission anyway. Heroic, the only way to describe their actions and their work each and every day. To the brave troops and stranded Americans in Afghanistan, we pray for you to return home safely. Our enemies have taken advantage of this chaotic nature of a withdrawal. And yesterday they crossed a red line. Like many of you, I listened closely to what President Biden had to say last night. And I heard the President dodge tough questions about his execution of the withdrawal. I heard him present a false choice between exiting, evacuating, and escalating. I heard him say the mission will continue, but the Taliban dictated deadline will remain in place.
Kevin McCarthy: (01:56)
I heard him say leaving Bagram was not much value added and getting every single personnel can not be guaranteed. I heard him say he can’t remember with certitude if his administration gave American names to Taliban terrorist. Never in the history of this nation would we have ever thought that our own government would give the names of Americans to the Taliban. And I heard him say what America says matters.
Kevin McCarthy: (02:34)
As he gets ready to break our word to our allies and Afghan partners who fought alongside us for more than 20 years. What I didn’t hear from the president was his decisive leadership for our troops, our citizens, and our allies of what they deserve. Frankly, this isn’t the tested leadership the President promised. It’s a picture of weakness and incompetence. To be Commander in Chief, you need the faith, the trust, and the confidence of the American public. President Biden lost all three of those yesterday. Congress, can’t sit idle as a separate branch of government while troops are targeted and Americans remain stranded. It’s time for us to act quickly to save lives. Speaker Pelosi needs to call Congress back in session and do it now, get a comprehensive classified briefing from the Biden administration, and to pass Representative Gallagher’s bill to prohibit the President from withdrawing our troops until every single American is out of Afghanistan.
Kevin McCarthy: (03:47)
This isn’t the time for Taliban dictated deadlines. This isn’t the time for doing nothing. This is the time for decisive leadership. It’s not difficult to call Congress back. In a Pelosi Congress, you can vote by proxy. And I’ll promise you this having sat through a hearing last week that they could only give us a short timeframe. I heard veterans and Republicans and Democrats alike, disgusted by the administration and the State Department’s action. We all know overwhelmingly Gallagher’s bill will pass. The only thing stopping it is Pelosi from us being back in session. Partisan political decisions designed to get you photo ops lead to fatal national security consequences on the battlefield. It was a partisan political decision to act in haste days prior to a tragic anniversary. And our men in uniform died as a result. The only question we have now is how do we prevent this in the days to follow?
Kevin McCarthy: (04:56)
How do we learn from the mistakes the past seven days so we don’t make them over the next 30. I have a simple principle that our brave men and women in uniform all know too well leave no one behind. You would not think you’d have to explain that to a President of the United States. Let’s act now before this tragic situation gets worse. I want to thank the troops. To the families that have lost the loved ones, for those who have served before, and to all the Gold Star families you will not be forgotten. You did the job you were asked and you do not deserve to withdraw of this abide in administration and the lack of action from Nancy Pelosi in your time of need. With that let’s take questions.
Speaker 6: (05:51)
Kevin McCarthy: (05:51)
Speaker 6: (05:52)
Thank you. Good morning. Explain in concrete terms, what you would expect from a briefing? I understand it’s hard to brief members on sensitive matters when Congress is out of session. But when you talk about bringing Congress back to have a briefing, Hey, I’ve talked to a lot of members who were disappointed in what they heard in the briefing so what did that achieve? And number two, what would you want Congress to do? Is there some piece of legislation lay out besides the Gallagher bill, lay out something in concrete terms of calling congress back?
Kevin McCarthy: (06:22)
Counting today, you have five days before the President lets Taliban dictate that we leave in Afghanistan. Five days counting today. So what can we do? We’ve watched the last briefings that we had, the first briefing we had over a phone where they cut people off after a few questions. They did it twice because after the first one we had the State Department do it again the next day and leaving members in the queue for not being able to get their questions asked when you know member after member has constituents friends sitting in Afghanistan trying to get out. We had an in person one where we were called back into session for a special session. After an hour and a half, while lines were still lying down the aisle of Republicans and Democrats alike the Democrats bang the gavel down and said we had to get back to the floor to work on $5 trillion of spending.
Kevin McCarthy: (07:18)
As they worked the night before, late into the night, not one action was taken about Afghanistan. As they called the President, it wasn’t about changing the deadline it was about twisting the arms to vote for almost $5 trillion to deem it that they don’t even debate it. So what would we do? We’d go back and get an update. Why would we get an update? Because what took place yesterday, hasn’t had that type of loss to our troops in more than a decade. In more than a decade, we have not lost that many troops in a single day. For the last 18 months prior to this administration, not one casualty in Afghanistan. But this President’s action has put him in harm’s way. We are a co-equal branch of government.
Kevin McCarthy: (07:58)
We are elected by our constituents. We have a voice and we should use it. We should bring the administration in and have them answer every single question by every single member, which they would not allow us to do between now. And then we should go to the floor and we should allow a vote instead of the Democrats voting to deny Gallaghers bill from coming up. It would simply say this still to this day with five days to go, no one in the State Department will give us the number of the amount of Americans still in Afghanistan. Why will they not give you that number? Because they’ve made a decision to leave Americans there and they don’t want you to know what that is. We have a right to know. The American people have a right to know.
Kevin McCarthy: (08:41)
And then we should pass as a body. And Gallagher’s bill prohibits us from leaving on the 31st. The question should not be dictated by Taliban on the date. The answer should be based what Americans are fully and completely out of Afghanistan. That’s what we would take up. It’s simple, straightforward. And I believe if the President says what America says matters, let America speak, and let America tell them.
Speaker 6: (09:09)
Do you think you get better information in a briefing now, than what you got last week and the other two or three briefings you’ve expressed the disappointment?
Kevin McCarthy: (09:15)
I’ve never had such poor briefing at any given time.
Speaker 6: (09:18)
So why would that be different [crosstalk 00:09:20]-
Kevin McCarthy: (09:19)
I’ve never had people hide from it.
Speaker 6: (09:19)
… people back?
Kevin McCarthy: (09:20)
I will tell you, inside that briefing, I had Republicans and Democrats criticizing the State Department. Based upon the information they were given in the past I had questions by Democrats I heard wanting an answer they said they would not give it. Why would you quit? Why would you quit with five days to go? Why would you quit when Americans are still sitting over there? Why would you quit when you have allies the UK, France, Germany, who have fought with us in Afghanistan not because they were attacked, but because America was attacked who have asked this president to extend the deadline so they can get their citizens. Why would we turn our backs on them too? Why would the President Biden pick the Taliban over our allies and over Americans? It’s very simple. It’s not difficult. The only question rise with speaker Pelosi. She wouldn’t even take the questions about Afghanistan. In a day, there was a greater death than the last decade. That’s appalling.
Speaker 7: (10:20)
Yes. So some of your colleagues have said that the President’s actions in recent days mean that he should be impeached or that he should resign. Do you agree with those calls for impeachment or resignation?
Kevin McCarthy: (10:31)
Look I’m extremely frustrated with this President. As I said, if you want to be President of the free world, you have to have the faith, the trust, and the confidence of the American public. President Biden lost that yesterday. There will be a day of reckoning and we have constitutional rights. Right now in the next five days everyone’s responsibility should only be focused on getting the Americans out. That is what we should focus on. When that day passes, we can take up anything to hold accountable for the actions that have been taken, the lies that have been given, the missed decisions that have put Americans in harm’s way, and the decision to leave Americans behind. That choice and that answer should never be given as a the President of the United States.
Speaker 7: (11:23)
So I just want to make sure that-
Kevin McCarthy: (11:24)
Speaker 8: (11:25)
Leader McCarthy thank you. You and others this morning had been criticizing these reports and the President confirming last night that the U.S. gave the Taliban information. If the U.S. was trying to get Americans through Taliban checkpoints, how else were they supposed to do that without giving the Taliban information about people who needed to get through those checkpoints? What other option did the U.S. Military have?
Kevin McCarthy: (11:46)
You know what’s interesting, here’s an administration that said they do not trust the Taliban but they turn and say they depend on them. Why would we ever depend on the Taliban? Why wouldn’t we kept Bagram to start out with? Why wouldn’t we if we ended up in that air base, why wouldn’t we have pushed it back out, created enough military troops to create safe passage? Why would you negotiate with the Taliban? The reports now I read yesterday, I don’t know if it’s true or not, that we were sharing Intel information since April with them. These are all questions that need to be answered. That’s why on a call last night we have three committees. Foreign affairs, [inaudible 00:12:30], an Intel. What Adam Shift has done for the last three and a half years has failed as a chairman, has failed this nation of what he should have been looking at.
Kevin McCarthy: (12:43)
Devin Nunes is looking into this and these are questions we should have answered. This is a report that came out. Let’s find exactly… the President couldn’t answer the question with certitude.
Speaker 8: (12:53)
Kevin McCarthy: (12:53)
But at no given time, should we provide to our enemy, to a terrorist organization these are American names we want to come into the airport. When we’re having other nations, our allies going out and picking up their citizens, why wouldn’t we have created a situation, a safe passage? Why would the President of United States go on television and tell all of the Americans they’re safe to go to the airport if he knew that he gave the names? And then we found out 30 minutes later, it was not safe, that people were being beaten. Who did they know to beat? How did they know to beat? These are questions and accountability that needs to get answered. So as we work for the next five days to get everybody out, and I hope that we can extend that deadline. So once we get everybody out, then we should start the very next day on the questions and the answers to hold those rightfully accountable for their misactions. Yes, sir.
Speaker 9: (13:51)
[inaudible 00:13:51]. A bill that you’d like to see passed specifically has a line in there about keeping American troops there only if the situation there becomes too dangerous, which would essentially still give the White House, the discretion as to whether or not the troops should be there or not. And couldn’t you make the argument that the situation there is already too dangerous. So does that bill effectively achieve the goal that you want of keeping troops there beyond-
Kevin McCarthy: (14:16)
Speaker 9: (14:17)
… the 31st deadline?
Kevin McCarthy: (14:19)
The only way we want troops to be there is to make sure Americans get back safely and the troops are safe. The number of troops that you bring to bring safety prior to the Biden administration, you only had 2,500 troops there. He had Bagram Air Force Base. He had 18 months and not one casualty. He actually has more troops on the ground today and he has the most casualties has happened in the last decade. Instead of allowing the State Department to run this, I’d allow the military to run it. What does it take to get them out safely? And what does it take to do it with American men and women and not the Taliban?
Speaker 9: (14:51)
Do you think that-
Kevin McCarthy: (14:52)
There’s no other answer there could be.
Speaker 9: (14:55)
Do you think that means-
Kevin McCarthy: (14:55)
[crosstalk 00:14:56] questions if you don’t mind.
Kevin McCarthy: (14:56)
Just to clear this up because on whatever day you did your press conference this week, you said you believed the U.S. should have a permanent force in Afghanistan when I asked you that. You no longer [crosstalk 00:15:05]-
Kevin McCarthy: (15:05)
I would have checked and maintained the Bagram Air Force base. Why? Because the proximity, the proximity to the region, it is in, from Russia, from China, from Pakistan. The ability when the President tells me to look over the horizon, how can you look over the horizon if you don’t have the opportunity? I believe we could have maintained it safely. We’ve just got 18 months with no casualties and we could have maintained two runways so only 30 nautical miles from Kabul. And I think it gave us an opportunity for in the future to maintain peace in others.
And one more question, you said he shouldn’t be negotiating with the Taliban. Trump did that too, to be clear. So was it wrong-
Kevin McCarthy: (15:51)
Trump also had conditions and he upheld the conditions. Trump never gave the names of Americans to the Taliban. Trump’s never left Black Hawk helicopters more than Australia has.
Should we have no relations with the Taliban from here on out?
Kevin McCarthy: (16:05)
Let me be very clear, I would not allow the Taliban to dictate the date that Americans leave. That America leaves and leaves Americans behind and allies behind because the Taliban tells you to leave. At no given time should a President of the United States ever allow that. But this President did and I don’t believe any other President would Republican or Democrat outside of Joe Biden. Yes, sir.
Speaker 10: (16:29)
Given that military experts, some have said that the perimeter around the airport needs to be extended then would you be in favor of if the military said, we need more people on the ground there to having more military on the ground there?
Kevin McCarthy: (16:41)
If the military says it makes them safer, yes, I would. You want to be able to go in with enough troops and enough supplies that they are safe. You have C-17’s coming in. You can bring the MRAP and others to make sure you can go out, bring Americans back in without relying upon the Taliban and get out in a faster process than what they’re doing and with less casualties. That’s what they should have done from the beginning. Look, I don’t think people are arguing about whether we should have left or not in Afghanistan, it’s how. And I don’t believe anybody in this country believes that this President has done it right. He has failed time and again. Thank you and God bless.
Speaker 11: (17:22)
Are we going back to war Leader McCarthy?