A congressman who organized a private mission to rescue a Texas mom and her kids from Afghanistan blasted the State Department for taking credit for the effort while at the same time stonewalling it.
Oklahoma Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Ok) told CNN on Tuesday that the State Department’s claim that they “facilitated the safe departure” of four US citizens from Afghanistan, was “a lie.”
“It wasn’t until the second day that we almost had her out that the State Department came in, and when they came in, they did come in to help, I’ll give you that,’ he said. “They showed up a few hours after she got across. For them to say they facilitated, that’s a lie.”
Mullin claimed the department originally said it could not assist in the evacuation “in any way.”
“The State Department was actually told at one time, actually told the embassy and the country not to assist us in any way,” he said. “Quote, that came from the ambassador, said ‘Washington, D.C., Representative Mullin, I’m not to assist you in any way.’”
The Oklahoma Republican’s efforts to help the American family stuck in Afghanistan came under fire last week after the Washington Post reported Mullin threatened US diplomats who refused to assist in his effort while transporting a large sum of money.
Mullin defended the large sum of cash to CNN, explaining that checkpoints in the region don’t take credit cards saying, “If we’re going to continue to get people out, we’re going to have to fund the operation, and you can only do that through cash.”
Last week, Mullin said he notified the ambassador that he was entering Tajikistan “with a large sum of cash.” When US Ambassador to Tajikistan John Mark Pommersheim asked why the cash was necessary, Mullin said he responded: “Sir, you do know that we’ve got to go through 16 checkpoints just to get from Kabul to [Mazar-i-Sharif]? … He says, ‘I can’t assist you’. Why? ‘I was told not to.’
At the time, Mulllin described Pommersheim as “not helpful, at all.”
On Tuesday, Mullin appeared to walk back on his feelings for the ambassador, saying “the ambassador and I in Tajikistan get along.”
He denied reports that he threatened both the ambassador and embassy staff, demanding to know the names of the officials he was speaking to.
“And it was his group that really tried to help us as much as they could,” he added, dismissing the reports. “It wasn’t, that’s just a misnarrative, him and I actually spoke about this yesterday and he actually apologized about it.”
“His guys are the ones that were actually trying to volunteer their time and help towards the end of this, not going up to it.”
Mullin’s efforts came after US officials including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) warned lawmakers not to attempt to travel to the region.
The family Mullin attempted to help flee the country was able to evacuate on Monday.
“This morning at 05:32EDT they got out of Afghanistan. Praise the Lord!,” the lawmaker said in a tweet, linking to a photo of the family.
The State Department later took credit for the evacuation shortly after, saying it “facilitated the safe departure” of four US citizens from Afghanistan, according to Fox News. Mullin has said the success was due to an organization called the Sentinel Foundation.
While the US completed their full troop withdrawal and initial evacuation efforts of Americans and Afghan allies in the country last week, at least 100 American citizens remain in Afghanistan.
On Friday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters that the US is in constant contact with those Americans who “may still wish to leave,” and case management teams have been assigned to each remaining American citizen.