Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy defends Reps. Moulton and Meijer over unauthorized trip to Afghanistan: 'I understand their frustration'

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Kevin McCarthy
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California speaks at the Capitol on July 21, 2021. AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana
  • House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said it was a bad idea for congressmembers go to Afghanistan.

  • But he defended Reps. Meijer and Moulton for making the trip, saying "I understand their frustration."

  • "They're both veterans, they're both frustrated," McCarthy said.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy defended Reps. Republican Rep. Peter Meijer of Michigan and Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts after they took an unauthorized trip to Kabul, Afghanistan on Tuesday.

Asked about the congressmen's trip during a Wednesday press conference, McCarthy did say that members of congress should not travel to Afghanistan right now. But he also took the opportunity to echo the duo's frustrations with the evacuation effort.

"They're both veterans, they're both frustrated, they have an administration that won't tell them the answers to how many Americans are left," said McCarthy. "So yes, it's not the best idea to go there, but I understand their frustration."

"They realize it's life and death. So yes, they made a decision to try to do something on their own," McCarthy added.

McCarthy said he is discouraging members of his own caucus from going. "I think it creates a greater risk," he said. "You've got enough Americans over there that are being held hostage, they'd make a point out of a member of Congress."

McCarthy further defended Meijer, a Republican, towards the end of the press conference. "I talked to Peter Meijer a couple different times. I'll show you-- the text that he sent me was working to get people out," he said. He later clarified that he did not speak to Meijer during the trip and was not aware of it ahead of time.

McCarthy declined to say whether Meijer would face any disciplinary actions for taking the unauthorized trip.

In contrast, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been firm in her criticism of the two congressmen.

"It was not, in my view, a good idea," Pelosi said at her Wednesday morning press conference. Pelosi on Tuesday night circulated a letter among her colleagues discouraging further travel to the region.

On Tuesday morning, Reps. Meijer and Moulton made an unauthorized trip to the Kabul airport amid the US evacuation effort. They "figured out a way onto an empty military flight going into Kabul," according to The Washington Post.

"It's as moronic as it is selfish," a senior administration official told The Post anonymously. "They're taking seats away from Americans and at-risk Afghans - while putting our diplomats and service members at greater risk - so they can have a moment in front of the cameras.

In a joint press release, the congressmen said they went to Kabul to "provide oversight" on the evacuation effort and claimed that they sat in "crew-only" seats to ensure they didn't take the spot of any evacuees.

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