Two U.S. House members who angered congressional and military leaders and the White House with a secret trip to Kabul last week said Sunday they were “uniquely positioned” to make the trip, suggesting their colleagues should not follow suit.
Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) said in a CNN interview he and Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) were “uniquely positioned” to make the trip due to their past military service in Iraq and Meijer’s work as a conflict analyst in Afghanistan.
Meijer’s comment came in response to a Washington Post report that two other House members flew to Europe on Wednesday with the hope of traveling to Afghanistan, only to have their request rejected by the Pentagon.
Meijer said he and Moulton were “uniquely situated” to have “as light a footprint as possible” and to “get in, get out, be as quiet as possible,” even after the Pentagon scolded them for diverting resources meant to be used for U.S. evacuations.
Moulton dismissed criticism of the trip, including from House leaders who discouraged other members from making similar visits, calling the claim they diverted resources “not true,” and stating, “I don’t care what pundits in Washington are saying.”
Moulton’s spokesperson told the Washington Post the two lawmakers took a commercial flight to the United Arab Emirates and then “figured out a way onto an empty military flight going into Kabul” on Tuesday. The pair said in a joint statement at the time the trip was to “conduct oversight” of the evacuation mission and was purposefully kept “secret” from both the public and top White House and Pentagon officials, who said they had no knowledge of the trip.
“It should be clear that any Member presence presents a danger and an opportunity cost of resources, regardless of whatever value that Members consider they may add by such trips,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a letter to House members after an ISIS-K attack on the Kabul airport that killed more than a dozen U.S. service members.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was one of many members of Congress who criticized the trip last week, calling it a “distraction” at a press conference on Wednesday. “I wouldn’t have advised it myself,” he said, adding that lawmakers should receive approval from their committee chairs for official trips.