(WASHINGTON) — House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Mike McCaul, R-Texas, accepted the State Department’s latest offer to review a classified communication sent by American diplomats during the final days of the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, at least temporarily ending a standoff where he threatened to hold Secretary of State Antony Blinken in contempt of Congress for refusing to hand over subpoenaed materials.
“I am available to view the documents as soon as possible,” McCaul wrote to Blinken in a letter shared Thursday. “In light of this invitation, I will pause efforts to enforce the Committee’s subpoena pending my review of the documents.”
McCaul added that despite his decision, the subpoena remains “in full force and effect” and pressed for additional access, arguing that all members of the panel were “undoubtedly entitled” to review the material.
McCaul and other Republicans on the panel have been engaged in a monthslong pursuit of the document that sources say was sent in July 2021 and warned Secretary of State Antony Blinken that the government of Afghanistan was at risk of collapse at the hands of the Taliban.
The committee chairman initially issued several requests for the document, followed by a subpoena in March. When the State Department refused to comply, he threatened to hold Blinken in contempt of Congress, going as far as to schedule a hearing on the matter in the coming days.
On Wednesday, State Department Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel said the department would send a letter on Monday offering McCaul and the committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Gregory Meeks of New York, an opportunity to privately review the document, known as a “dissent cable,” and that only identifying information of department personnel involved would be redacted.
“Chairman McCaul himself has said this is what he is interested in,” Patel said.
ABC News obtained a copy of the letter, which states that the State Department is prepared to make the cable available “as an additional extraordinary accommodation” to the two members of Congress “as soon as possible.”
The letter also notes that the department is extending the invitation to McCaul and Meeks “despite the materially increased risk that additional disclosures of the Dissent Channel cable could further deter Department employees from using the Dissent Channel in the future for its intended purposes of informing internal deliberations.”
The State Department had repeatedly declined to produce the cable, arguing the dissent channel needed to be protected to preserve its integrity and offering McCaul and other members of the committee a closed door briefing and a summary of the document instead.
Despite the administration’s concession, Patel made it clear that the State Department still saw its previous disclosures as adequately meeting the department’s needs.
“We believe that we have provided sufficient information through our classified briefing, through the written summary, and we believe these efforts already should have and would satisfied their request for information,” he said.
During a televised interview on Monday, McCaul called the State Department’s offer “a really significant step forward.”
McCaul said the only remaining issue he had was that the other members of the committee, including veterans of the war in Afghanistan, would not also be able to view the document.
“If we can work out this last step, then I think we’ve resolved a litigation fight in the courts,” McCaul said.
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