Biden yet to respond to proposed meeting with Gold Star families, Issa says
EXCLUSIVE: Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said he’s still awaiting a response from the White House about a meeting he requested between President Biden and Afghanistan Gold Star families, who will be in Washington, D.C., this month.
Issa sent a letter one week ago to Biden, asking to coordinate a meeting with the families of the fallen U.S. service members from the Kabul airport terrorist attack on Aug. 26, 2021, which occurred during the president’s chaotic military withdrawal.
The families were in Washington last week when Issa, a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, held a congressional forum, and the families reported feeling misled and betrayed by their own government.
‘After spending many meaningful days with them, I write to facilitate an opportunity for you to speak with them in person so you can finally take the time to listen and hear what they have to say,’ Issa wrote in an Aug. 10 letter to Biden, which was provided to Fox News Digital on Wednesday. ‘To date, that simply has yet to happen.’
‘By any objective measure, these families have been ignored by your administration as it has sought to ‘turn the page’ on the events surrounding the withdrawal and evacuation,’ Issa continued. ‘From questions surrounding personal effects of the fallen to details of the attack and the apparent lack of accountability, I have heard from the family members how they have felt ignored, lied to, and betrayed since their loved ones made the ultimate sacrifice.’
‘I believe you would greatly benefit from hearing the families’ experiences and their testimonials to their loved ones. With this in mind, I would be happy to coordinate a meeting between you and them,’ Issa concluded his letter. ‘Please do not hesitate to have your staff contact me.’
Issa said he’s yet to hear a response from Biden.
‘For two years, Joe Biden ignored and insulted these Gold Star parents as he turned the page on his disastrous decisions that cost our 13 service members their lives,’ Issa said in a statement to Fox News Digital. ‘He has yet to in any way make this right with the families. Does he have the courage to face them? Not yet.’
Fox News Digital asked the White House whether the president had a response to the request or whether the president had any plans to meet with the families, but it declined to comment.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul announced Tuesday that the full committee will hold a roundtable discussion on ‘Examining the Abbey Gate Terrorist Attack,’ which will include some of the Gold Star family members on Aug. 29.
During the committee’s hearing with the families last week, several called out Biden and his top Cabinet officials by name, calling on them to resign.
Kelly Barnett, the mother of Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover who spoke out last week and who will be a panelist during the roundtable this month, accused Biden officials of lying to her about her son’s death – and said she was told that he died immediately only for eyewitnesses to tell her he ‘lived for a little while.’
‘We were told lies, given incomplete reports, incorrect reports, total disrespect,’ Barnett said. ‘I was told to my face he died on impact. That’s not true. The only reason that I know this is because witnesses told me the truth. I was lied to and basically told to shut up.’
Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui’s father, Steve Nikoui, accused Biden during the hearing of using his Marine son ‘as a pawn so we can meet his Sept. 11th deadline and get the optics he wanted.’
‘My life and that of my family’s has been on pause since the early morning of Aug. 26, 2021,’ the emotional father said. ‘The difference between the minutes of my life before that and the minutes that passed after that day are contrasted drastically.’
Christy Shamblin, the mother-in-law of Marine Sgt. Nicole Gee, held back tears during the hearing when she described her reaction to Biden officials lauding the evacuation as a success.
‘When our leaders, including the secretary of defense and our commander in chief, called this evacuation a success, as if there should be celebration, it is like a knife in the heart for our families and for the people [who] came back,’ Shamblin said. ‘I live [every] single day knowing that these deaths were preventable. My daughter could be with us today.’
‘I can’t even begin to piece together the words that would convey to you the devastation that her murder has brought to our family,’ she said.
Nikoui, Shamblin and seven other family members are also listed as panelists for the Aug. 29 discussion.
When reached for comment last week about the families’ criticism, a White House official told Fox News Digital that the president and first lady ‘will always honor the sacrifices of the 13 servicemembers who were killed in that attack.’
‘We mourn with them, we remember their loved ones, and we will continue to support these Gold Star families,’ the official said. ‘We are enormously proud of the men and women of our military, our diplomats and the intel community who conducted that withdrawal – they performed bravely and helped evacuate more than 120,000 people in one of the largest airlifts in history.’
‘But more broadly, the President made the tough decision to end the 20-year war in Afghanistan because he was not going to send another generation of troops to fight and die in a conflict that had no end in sight,’ the official added.
Biden previously received criticism for his treatment of the Gold Star families immediately after the 2021 attack in Kabul.
Following the attack, Biden met in Dover, Delaware, with the family members of the 13 killed, but several of them later spoke out, accusing the president of repeatedly bringing up his late son, Beau, and saying he routinely checked his watch during the dignified transfer of the soldiers’ remains.
Cheyenne McCollum, one of the sisters of Marine Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, said she met with Biden alongside McCollum’s pregnant widow and that the president would not look family members in the eye and spent the three-minute conversation talking about Beau, who served in Iraq with the Army and died in 2015 from brain cancer.
‘I was able to stand about 15 seconds of his fake, scripted apology and I had to walk away,’ Cheyenne told ‘Fox & Friends’ at the time.
Mark Schmitz, the father of Marine Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, said Biden bristled and bluntly responded to his request that he learn the individual stories of the 13 fallen.
‘Initially, I wasn’t going to meet with him,’ Schmitz said at the time. ‘But then I felt I owed it to my son to at least have some words with him about how I felt, and it didn’t go well.’
The controversy had also resurfaced Biden’s reported past treatment of Gold Star families that predated the Afghanistan withdrawal.
For instance, Mike Iubelt, the father of the fallen Army Pfc. Tyler Iubelt, told the Washington Examiner in October 2019 that he had a ‘horrible experience’ meeting the now-president in 2016 after his son’s death in Afghanistan a few days earlier. Iubelt said he left their conversation ‘feeling worse’ than before.
‘He told my daughter-in-law … that she was too pretty for this to happen to her,’ Iubelt recalled. ‘It’s probably a good thing that he was surrounded by Secret Service, probably for both of us, because I’d probably be locked up in jail right now.’
Fox News’ Kyle Morris and Elizabeth Elkind contributed to this report.