Apr 14, 2021
Liz Cheney, House GOP Leaders Press Conference Transcript April 14
Rep. Liz Cheney and other House Republicans held a press conference on April 14, 2021. They addressed the potential removal of troops from Afghanistan. Read the transcript of the briefing speech here.
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Liz Cheney: (00:00)
… at a group at the border. We have a number of our members who are going to talk about what they saw at the border, the crisis there. We think it’s really important that the press continue to ask the White House about the extent to which that the President has said, Vice President Harris is in charge of the border. Vice-President Harris said she was not in charge of the border. Nobody seems to be in charge. She hasn’t been there and we have a humanitarian and national security crisis and health crisis unfolding there. So we’re going to hear directly from our members who’ve been there. I also want to just say a word about Afghanistan. President Biden announced that he will be withdrawing forces from Afghanistan. I understand he’s making a speech this afternoon by a date certain. First of all, any withdrawal of forces based on a political timeline…
Liz Cheney: (00:56)
And he has said, as I understand it that this will not be based on conditions on the ground. Any withdrawal of forces that is not based on conditions on the ground, puts American security at risk. He’s further apparently going to announce that the date for the withdrawal will be September 11th. Now I’m not sure why the White House has selected that date, but I can tell you that that is a huge propaganda victory for the Taliban, for Al Qaeda. The notion that on the day that they attacked us, we are going to mark that anniversary by withdrawing our forces. We know that Al-Qaeda continues to operate across Afghanistan. We know that the Taliban has not in fact lived up to any of the commitments that they made during the previous administration. And we know that this kind of a pullback is reckless, it’s dangerous, it puts American security at risk.
Liz Cheney: (01:53)
It will provide an opportunity for terrorists to be able to establish safe havens again. It also puts the women of Afghanistan at risk. It puts the women of Afghanistan into the position that they were in potentially 20 years ago, where their lives are not valued, where they have no freedom. The United States of America went to Afghanistan because our security depended upon it, because we were attacked by Al-Qaeda, because the Taliban hosted Al-Qaida that relationship continues. So a withdrawal of forces that isn’t based on conditions on the ground is fundamentally dangerous.
Liz Cheney: (02:28)
The President’s apparently going to say we went to Afghanistan because of a horrific attack that happened 20 years ago, but that cannot explain why we should remain there in 2021. And I would say that does explain exactly why we must remain there. We know what happens if terrorists establish safe havens, we must ensure it doesn’t happen again. And finally, I would say the President is obligated by law, that we passed in the NDA last year, to certify that conditions have been met for the enduring defeat of Al Qaeda and ISIS before he initiates any significant withdrawal. And that is an obligation we expect that the White House will uphold and will meet. Again, it’s an obligation that they have by law we passed in the NDA last year. And so with that, I’m going to yield to the Republican leader of the Homeland Security Committee Mr. Katko.
John Katko: (03:21)
Thank you very much. Thank you all for being here today. I just got back my second trip to the border. Steve has been there as well and others, and I just want to kind of give you some things you might not be getting from others with respect to what’s going on at the border. We’ve received briefings from Customs and Border Protection in Texas, the Texas Rangers, the Texas Highway Patrol, ICE Homeland Security Investigations. Here’s some things that they told us. In the Rio Grande Valley section alone they personally observed at least 15,000 people come across the border who got away. We don’t know whether they’re terrorists. We don’t know whether they’re drug traffickers. We don’t know whether they’re criminals. We don’t know anything about them because they got away. Over capacity at the Donna processing facilities at 420% right now. As you see from the pictures, it’s hard to even tell that they’re humans.
John Katko: (04:10)
I sent my wife one of those pictures the other day and she didn’t realize that those were all humans because they’re all wrapped up so tightly-
Speaker 3: (04:16)
John Katko: (04:17)
… and piled on top of each other. Children, exactly. Girls are arriving pregnant as young as 11 years old. We saw one woman who reportedly was repeatedly raped at nine years old by drug traffickers along the way. There’s at least a 10% positive testing rate for individuals tested for COVID here. None of them are being tested at this facility. They don’t want to be tested because if they test positive, they have to quarantine them and there’s no place to put them. They’re being released into our communities with at least 10% of them on average testing positive for COVID. Something you may not realize is happening, and we saw this firsthand. We were there at midnight, two people who saw midnight were on the plane with us the next day going to a destination. We are being told through debriefings that the individuals are saying they have family in San Francisco, for example, or Philadelphia, for example.
John Katko: (05:09)
But oftentimes those are where the drug traffickers are telling they have to go to work off the fee it takes them to cross the border. And so think about this. They are there the night before, the next morning they’re released and not tested most likely. They are released and given a plane ticket, oftentimes by the NGO’s, the NGO’s are getting money from FEMA so we’re ultimately paying for those plane tickets to put them somewhere where they said they’re going. When they come to us, they don’t have any ID. They say their name could be Joe Smith, we have no way to know whether it’s Joe Smith or if it’s someone on the terror watch list. We have no idea. They then get allowed to go onto an airplane with no ID. Think about that. How many of us can go on an airplane without an ID?
John Katko: (05:54)
They are doing that. They are given this packet. On the front of the packet is that and on the back of the packet is that, what you see over there. Right. Please help me, I do not speak English. The paperwork inside is in English telling them when they’re supposed to appear, what they’re supposed to do next and they don’t speak English. So what are we doing? Why are we paying for this? Why are we putting people on planes not knowing whether or not they tested positive for COVID in a close environment like that? The Donna processing facility, for example, $19.2 million a month to operate, that’s not including the daycare center which has overrun. It’s not including the medical facilities, which are $54 million a year at that facility alone. They’re so overwhelmed that they’re forced to release thousands and thousands of illegal family units into the interior without even giving them a court date, without even giving them a date to appear for anything.
John Katko: (06:42)
They’re just being released in because there’s nothing else they can do. I could go on and on, but I want to leave you with this because I think it’s important. These are quotes from the law enforcement we had on the border. “The biggest thing you can do for us is allow us to enforce laws that are already on the books. The federal government is becoming the biggest facilitator of human smuggling across the border, by not delivering consequences when people break the law and sending people to their final destinations after they cross the border illegally.” That’s them saying it. That’s the front lines, that’s the Border Patrol saying that. “No one crosses the border from Mexico without the cartels being involved in getting paid. The seasonal trend talking point is a complete myth. In areas where we have implemented border wall systems, we have shifted 80% of illegal activity in that area to areas where we are better able to interdict. We need personnel, technology, and infrastructure.”
John Katko: (07:34)
And lastly, I’ll tell you this, the cartels which are neck deep involved in this and are being enriched more than anything else to about $15 million dollars a day, are advertising on Facebook for smuggling these people across. And are advertising on TikTok, sending out videos of their smuggling and are advertising on Craigslist to hire drivers to smuggle people across and they’re advertising and trying to recruit Uber drivers. This is a crisis we forced by the executive orders in January 20th and is universal to them all the people in the front lines that if we went back to the way it was before those executive orders, we would effectively stop this problem. Who’s up next? [inaudible 00:08:15] Thank you.
Mike McCaul: (08:17)
Thanks. I’m Mike McCaul, ranking member on the Foreign Affairs Committee. To me this is personal, I live in Texas. I was a federal prosecutor in Texas. I dealt with this issue when I was a federal prosecutor. I chaired the Homeland Security Committee for three terms in Congress. This is a crisis, make no mistake. And in the many years I’ve been covering this issue, I’ve never seen it this bad. I just got back with whip [inaudible 00:08:48] to the Rio Grande Valley sector, the busiest sector in the United States. We went to a nighttime tour of the border, thousands of people coming in, children. I call it a trail of tears because it was so sad to see a five-year-old girl in tears, not knowing where she is without her parents without her family. And we talked to some of them in Spanish, took them 40 days to cross from Guatemala up to the border.
Mike McCaul: (09:23)
40 days of misery, all created by the President of the United States by the stroke of a pen. 2014 was nothing compared to this nor was 2019. They’ll tell you it’s seasonal. The Border Patrol sector chief Rio Grande Valley who I trust and not the politicians, tells me it’s not seasonal. There’s a direct cause and effect between the President’s actions first day in office a stroke of a pen, wiping out the Remain in Mexico policy that was working, remain in Mexico and the Asylum Cooperation Agreements with Central America. This is not only a humanitarian crisis, not only threat to our national security, not only a Homeland Security issue, but it’s a foreign policy blunder. I talked to Secretary Pompeo, he negotiated the Remain in Mexico agreement that was working. It required them to stay in Mexico while waiting their asylum claims or say third country like Guatemala.
Mike McCaul: (10:25)
So what’s happening now because of the rescission, the traffickers are smart and they know that America is open for business now, and guess what they’re coming. And for each one of these children that we saw in that facility, as horrific as that looks, we expect to see this in foreign countries. We don’t expect this in the United States of America for God’s sakes, but this is real. And it’s because of the President’s actions on the first day in office, this needs to stop. He can do it with the stroke of a pen to reverse this course. And what really is heartbreaking to me is to see those border patrol agents that I’ve worked with for so many years of my career so demoralized. 40% of their time is going down to babysit, not on the front lines, 40% now have to drive buses and babysit and be caregivers rather than the job they were hired to do.
Mike McCaul: (11:25)
They’re signing up for early retirement and it’s just wrong. And Kamala Harris, if she’s in charge… I don’t know if she is, she needs to come down. The President needs to as well. But this has to stop and it can stop. I’ve been discussing this issue with the ambassadors of the Northern Triangle. I’ll be meeting with them later this evening and the ambassador from Mexico to look for solutions. There is a solution that can stop this, but with no action at all out of the White House it’s going to continue and it’s going to get worse. Going into the spring time, we know the numbers are going to drive. Traffickers make $15 million a day, half a billion dollars a month exploiting these children and extorting the families in Central America. So I never thought I would see it this bad in my career, but it is this bad and it needs to stop. And the President can stop it with a stroke of a pen, just like he started the whole thing with a stroke of a pen. With that, I want to introduce Ann Wagner ranking member on the Foreign Affairs Committee.
Ann Wagner: (12:40)
Thank you very, very much. Ann Wagner, I represent the suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri, Missouri second congressional district. I appreciate the whip for taking a group of us down to the border. Yet again, I’ve been before. And I could tell you what we saw was both horrifying and heart breaking to be perfectly honest. 172,000 that actually turned themselves in or were picked up in the month of March alone. That doesn’t talk about the tens of thousands that are actually escaping undetected across our nation’s border. And that number is growing and you know what? The trek and the trip will only get more dangerous as the months get hotter and hotter and hotter. These open border policies that were completely created by this President, Joe Biden must be turned around. There are three things that he can do, reinstate the Trump policy that worked, which was Remain in Mexico.
Ann Wagner: (13:43)
The second has to do with the Asylum Cooperation Agreement with the three Northern Triangle countries, which is you know what? You can apply for asylum, but do it in Central America. Don’t make the trek here. And the third frankly, is Title 42, which is a public health exclusionary order that says during COVID and during a pandemic, we should not be allowing anybody to come in. We not only is it the COVID that’s coming in there were holding bins… I don’t know what else to call them like this filled with children that had signs on them that said suspected chicken pox and other diseases that are coming across. And what this is doing is that it’s being moved into the interior, my own home state of Missouri and beyond. You’ve got crime that’s coming in undetected. You have COVID and other diseases coming in.
Ann Wagner: (14:39)
And you also have a cost of the American people because you know what? I was on a plane also from McAllen, Texas, and a half the plane was filled with the oversize Manila envelope families that were being moved in. Buses, cars, vans, they’re all being moved into the interior. There’ll be on our social welfare programs, maybe sadly for life, a drain on the health care, a drain on our education system. So this is a crisis that was created by President Joe Biden. President Trump had the policies in order they need to go back to those. He broke this and he needs to own it, and he needs to fix it. He also needs to go down to the border along with Vice-President Harris, and they need to talk to these Border Patrol agents.
Ann Wagner: (15:31)
As we heard, 40% of them these field agents are off the job fighting crime and cartels and they are literally processing children and serving as caregivers. This is something that we can no longer hide about. I had three 20 year veteran Border Patrol agents say they feel abandoned and said, “Go back and be a truth teller for us.” And that’s what we’re here to do today. Thank you.
Steve Scalise: (16:00)
Thank you Ann for telling the truth and this is going to be something we’re going to continue to do. We’re going to continue to raise awareness to this crisis at America’s Southern border. It was exclusively created by President Biden. With the stroke of a pen, right when he took the oath of office undid policies that were working to control our Southern border. It had a ripple effect that immediately resulted in people coming by the thousands a day illegally across the Rio Grande and other parts of our Southern border. With the members that have gone down to the border, they’ve all seen the same things. We went with Border Patrol agents. We went to a shift change, and then they took us out to one of the temporary processing centers right by the Rio Grande river. And it was alarming.
Steve Scalise: (16:45)
As Ann said, it was heartbreaking to see what was going on. Within minutes, we saw just parades of people coming across and they were coming across in groups of maybe five or six, because that’s how many would fit on the rafts that were being deployed from the Mexico side, right across the Rio Grande. They’d send them over a group of five or six would come through the brush and then they would go and start getting processed. And then a few minutes later, another group and another group, and it was constant the entire night. Around midnight, we went over by the Rio Grande and as we were going that way we saw more people just coming through under brush, young children many of them unaccompanied. The abuse, the sexual abuse and rape that is happening to these young girls is heartbreaking. It should be something that President Biden acknowledges and stops.
Steve Scalise: (17:36)
He can stop this today. He won’t go down to the border. We’re calling on President Biden to go down to the border himself and see what he created, this mess that he’s created and the carnage these kids are going through right now. This is a detention facility right here. It’s a cell, it’s a holding cell that’s set up by the federal government. This one was designed for 33 people. There were over 400 kids in that cell the day we went there. And there were multiple cells like this set up, every one of them with over 400 people that were designed for 33 kids. They’re on top of each other, a large percentage have COVID which means it’s got to be spreading through everybody. But in the meantime, imagine a restaurant back home in any state in America, if you’re over a hundred percent capacity with state guidelines, they’re going to probably shut that restaurant down here.
Steve Scalise: (18:27)
Here you’ve got the federal government running a facility with holding cells over a thousand percent above capacity. Where the government would shut somebody down if they were doing this in the private industry, the federal government is doing this to these young kids. It’s the definition… If you read Texas’ law on child abuse and neglect, what’s happening in that federal facility and the Biden administration is running violates Texas’s own laws. It’s a national disgrace. And President Biden puts Kamala Harris in charge of it and she refuses to go down maybe because she doesn’t want to be associated with this disgraceful policy. But if she’s the Vice President of United States and the President put her in charge of this Vice-President Harris needs to go down to the border and see this for herself, because maybe she would then encourage President Biden to reverse his policies that have failed.
Steve Scalise: (19:19)
Again, you can go back to the Trump policy Remain in Mexico, everybody will tell you that policy was working. The Border Patrol agents tell us. It’s not like you get 10 opinions when you ask the same question to 10 different people. Our Border Patrol agents are all telling us the same thing. One, they signed up for this tough job because they want to stop the drug cartels from bringing drugs into America. What’s happening now is the drug cartels are running America’s Southern border. They’re making millions of dollars a day off of this enterprise that was created by President Biden’s executive actions. And they don’t want to be at midnight changing diapers when instead they could be stopping fentanyl and heroin from coming into America’s border. But that’s what they’re doing right now, because that’s what President Biden’s policy has created. President Biden created it, he can reverse it today.
Steve Scalise: (20:05)
He needs to go see for himself the damage that he’s doing and stop this madness. One final point I’ll make before we open it up to questions starting shortly we are going to be initiating a discharge petition on Ann Wagner’s Born Alive Act. So [inaudible 00:20:21] come back from Florida, we’ll be filing the discharge petition. If 218 members of Congress sign that discharge petition it will bring the bill to the floor immediately that says, if a baby is born alive outside the womb it can’t be murdered and called abortion. Unfortunately, that’s happening in States like New York and others that are looking to continue this barbaric practice. The only way to stop it is with an act of Congress. Speaker Pelosi, won’t bring the bill to the floor, but with 218 signatures that bill can come to the floor on its own. So we are going to be filing that discharge petition this morning, hopefully we’ll get enough signatures. Five Democrats signing on will bring that bill to the floor.
Steve Scalise: (21:01)
And I know a lot more Democrats that ran saying they were pro-life, you can’t be pro-life if you don’t sign this discharge petition. So that’s going to start today. And then of course, at noon today we’re going to be very proud to be at the swearing in of Julia Letlow which she will be our newest member of Congress. But as the Dean of the Louisiana Delegation, I’m especially proud of Julia getting sworn in. We were so sad to see the death of her husband, Luke just days before his swearing in. Julia just got elected in a special election. She will become the first Republican woman ever elected to Congress from Louisiana. We’re incredibly proud to have her joining our conference and Louisiana’s congressional delegation in a few hours. With that, I’d be happy to open up to questions. Yeah.
Speaker 7: (21:43)
A few days ago, former President Trump had some tough words for Senator McConnell. I’m not going to repeat what he said, but I’m curious your thoughts [inaudible 00:21:52] does the former President badmouthing Republican leaders complicate your task of taking control of Congress?
Steve Scalise: (21:57)
We’re very focused on taking back the House next year. And frankly, when you look at the socialist agenda being pushed by Speaker Pelosi and President Biden, people are turning away from it. They’re talking about an infrastructure bill, it’s Soviet style infrastructure what they’re talking about. Over 90% of the bill they’re proposing has nothing to do with roads and bridges. People would expect if you’re going to have a $2 trillion bill, that it would be all about roads and bridges. There’s is not, it’s a lot of Green New Deal, it’s expanding the role of the federal government, it’s raising taxes on hardworking families. National Association of Manufacturers said that hard working families would lose over a million jobs in America if they got this bill passed. So President Biden should be working with Republicans on a bipartisan agreement. He still refuses to even meet with Republican leadership.
Steve Scalise: (22:44)
So when you look at all of this far left socialist policy they’re pushing, it’s no surprise that a lot of Democrats are getting nervous. They know that our opportunity to win the House back has never been greater next year and we’re focused on doing that. You saw the record breaking numbers that we’ve raised over this first quarter, record-breaking. And I think it shows you that people are focused on getting the House back, putting a check and balance on this radical out of control Biden administration.
Speaker 7: (23:08)
Will Trump play a role in that?
Steve Scalise: (23:10)
I’m sure President Trump will play an active role. And he said he’s very interested in helping us win the House back. And I think a lot of Americans across the country who may have voted for President Biden and some of Speaker Pelosi’s Democrat members of Congress are alarmed by just how far left towards the socialist agenda they moved in a short time.
Speaker 9: (23:31)
With the allegations swirling around Congressmen [inaudible 00:23:34], do you have confidence in him?
Steve Scalise: (23:36)
Well, we’ve heard a lot of stories. I mean, obviously I’ve read the media reports, but there’s been nothing that we’ve seen yet from the Department of Justice. If somethings going on, obviously we’ll find out about it. Right now it’s hard to speculate on rumors, but if something really formal happened from Justice we would of course react and take action.
Speaker 9: (23:57)
Do you still have confidence in him?
Steve Scalise: (23:58)
Well, look I haven’t talked to him to get his explanation of what what’s been alleged. Serious things alleged, obviously we’ll want to get the facts.
Speaker 9: (24:08)
Do you plan to talk to him?
Steve Scalise: (24:10)
I would imagine I will be this week. I haven’t seen him. We just had a conference meeting… We’re still hybrid where we have in-person and people virtually, he wasn’t there in the room. I’m not sure if he was on Zoom.
Speaker 10: (24:29)
Have you had any conversations with the Minority Leader about whether he should be removed from any of his committee assignments, particularly this year?
Steve Scalise: (24:29)
We haven’t. If you look historically, there’ve been a few cases where members have had charges filed against them for various things and we’ve removed them from committees immediately when that happened. That’s been the precedent that we’ve always followed.
Speaker 9: (24:46)
Can we get your reaction to the hold on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. There’s some concern that this is going to increase vaccine [inaudible 00:24:53] former President Trump decides that.
Steve Scalise: (24:54)
Well, the first two vaccines that were approved are still very effective and safe. This one, we’ll see if it may actually be reinstated. Let the FDA run their process. We have Dr. Fauci and Dr. Willinsky the CDC director coming before the select subcommittee on Coronavirus, which I’m the ranking Republican on. Majority whip Clyburn is the chairman of that committee. They will be coming before our committee Thursday, tomorrow, and I’m sure this will be one of the many things that we’ll be discussing
Speaker 9: (25:28)
Are you concerned about it making people more hesitant to get vaccines?
Steve Scalise: (25:28)
You want to encourage people to get a vaccine if they want to. And if you look at the Johnson & Johnson decision, it was based on not a specific finding, but they saw some people that had blood clots that had gotten that. They want to see if it’s related to the vaccine. This is the FDA process. And the FDA is still the gold standard in the world for approval of vaccinations. We were able to get multiple vaccinations out for COVID in record time, but they didn’t cut any corners. If you look at Moderna, Pfizer, they were heavily tested on tens of thousands of Americans. And it seems to be yielding, very positive results. With Johnson & Johnson, let’s see what the FDA process yields there. I have confidence in the FDA’s process. I think we’re still the gold standard in the world. And other countries look to us still for guidance on how to properly approve and distribute vaccines.
Speaker 11: (26:24)
Steve Scalise: (26:24)
Well, thank y’all. We’ll see y’all on the floor for Julia sworn in.