Pelosi criticizes lawmakers' Afghanistan trip: 'This is deadly serious'

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Democrats get to the hard part Biden discusses agenda with Schumer, Pelosi ahead of pivotal week Stefanik in ad says Democrats want 'permanent election insurrection' MORE (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 MoultonSeth MoultonHow lawmakers aided the Afghan evacuation GOP lawmaker says he did not threaten US Embassy staff in Tajikistan House panel approves B boost for defense budget MORE (D-Mass.) or Peter MeijerPeter MeijerOvernight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod How lawmakers aided the Afghan evacuation McCarthy-allied fundraising group helps Republicans who voted to impeach Trump MORE (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.

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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."

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyOvernight Hillicon Valley — Scrutiny over Instagram's impact on teens Top Democrats tout California recall with an eye toward 2022 Former national security officials warn antitrust bills could help China in tech race MORE (R-Calif.) also said that it wasn't prudent for Moulton and Meijer to travel to Afghanistan, but expressed sympathy for their motivations.

"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 or those Afghans that actually probably worked with them and helped with them," McCarthy said.

"So yes, I don't think it's right that they went. But I understand their frustration of why they would want to go, about the lack of answers they were getting," he said.

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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.

They are far from the only members of Congress who were interested in traveling to Afghanistan to conduct oversight. Rep. Brian MastBrian Jeffrey MastReps. Greene, Roy fined for not wearing masks on House floor The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by AT&T - Texas's near abortion ban takes effect Absent Democrats give Republicans new opening on Afghanistan MORE (R-Fla.), an Army veteran who lost his legs while serving in the country, said Wednesday that his office had made inquiries in recent days with the Pentagon and the State Department asking about the possibility of a congressional delegation to the region, but was advised against it.

"We took that as an, 'OK, there will be a better time to probably do some of that oversight,'" Mast said.

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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.

The chairman of one of the primary committees of jurisdiction, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory MeeksGregory Weldon MeeksMeeks on being mistaken for a staffer: 'Glad I still blend in with the cool kids' Blinken grilled in first hearing since Afghanistan withdrawal Defense & National Security: The post-airlift evacuation struggle MORE (D-N.Y.), blasted lawmaker trips to Afghanistan at this time as unproductive and self-centered.

"To me, to go now is not to help. It's selfishness. It's to try to get some attention for yourself, and that doesn't help the people that we want to be helping right now," Meeks told reporters on Capitol Hill.

Moulton and Meijer's trip reportedly also 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.

—Updated at 3:35 p.m. Rebecca Beitsch contributed.