Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Wednesday criticized the secret trip by two House members to Afghanistan the day before, given the personal risk to the lawmakers and the strain on limited federal resources that are currently focused on evacuating people from the country.
Pelosi said she hasn’t spoken with Reps. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) or Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) since they returned from Afghanistan, adding “they have to make their own case as to why they went” but warning that such trips are “deadly serious.”
“It was not, in my view, a good idea,” Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol.
The Speaker said she learned of their trip to Afghanistan shortly before it became public and sent a memo to all House members on Tuesday warning them against traveling to the region to avoid any efforts to follow the example of Moulton and Meijer, who are Iraq War veterans.
She noted that making their travel public before they were airborne “would not have been safe for them.”
Pelosi reiterated from her warning to House members against travel to Afghanistan and the surrounding region that any such trips would be an “opportunity cost” from the focus on evacuating Americans and Afghan allies.
“So this is deadly serious. We do not want members to go,” Pelosi said. “The point is that we didn’t want anybody to think this was a good idea and they should try to follow suit.”
A spokesman for Moulton told The Washington Post that the two lawmakers made their way to Kabul by first taking a commercial flight to the United Arab Emirates with their own funds and then “figured out a way onto an empty military flight going into Kabul.”
Moulton and Meijer said in a joint statement that they “left on a plane with empty seats, seated in crew-only seats to ensure that nobody who needed a seat would lose one because of our presence.”
The two lawmakers said that they wanted to travel to Afghanistan in order to conduct oversight on the U.S. military withdrawal and gather information about the chaotic situation on the ground.
“As Members of Congress, we have a duty to provide oversight on the executive branch. There is no place in the world right now where oversight matters more. We conducted this visit in secret, speaking about it only after our departure, to minimize the risk and disruption to the people on the ground, and because we were there to gather information, not to grandstand,” Moulton and Meijer said.
Pelosi stressed that typical congressional oversight missions overseas are authorized by relevant committee chairs so that such trips are adequately organized with resources to ensure members’ security. But she made clear that no delegation would get a green light to travel to Afghanistan anytime soon.
“This is not just, like, ‘I think I’m going to go to Afghanistan.’ You need the approval of your committee chair in order to do that. And we’ve put out the word to committee chairs, ‘There ain’t gonna be no planes or this or that for people going to the region or any facilitation,'” Pelosi said.
Moulton and Meijer’s trip reportedly angered officials at the Pentagon and the State Department, leaving them infuriated that resources had to be suddenly diverted to accommodate the two lawmakers.
“It’s one of the most irresponsible things I’ve heard a lawmaker do,” one diplomat familiar with the matter told the Post. “It absolutely deserves admonishment.”
Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.), who worked for the State Department before her election to Congress last year and is a current member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, also criticized her colleagues’ trip.
“Whether it is Haiti or Afghanistan, taking up space in a disaster zone for your own ego helps no one,” Jacobs tweeted on Tuesday.
Via The Hill