President Joe Biden said he rejects the findings in an investigative report by the U.S. Army that accused his administration of not adequately preparing for the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. The comments were made during a wide-ranging interview with NBC's Lester Holt, and at one point President Biden got testy with the host.
On Tuesday, the Washington Post released an article detailing an Army report that contains documents and sworn testimony from U.S. military commanders involved in the Afghanistan withdrawal last summer. The 2,000-page investigative report – which was released to the outlet through a Freedom of Information Act request – claimed that White House and State Department officials failed to understand and prepare for how fast the Taliban would capture Kabul. The report claimed that senior officials disregarded advice by military commanders to prepare for the evacuation of embassy staffers and Afghan allies as the Taliban marched toward the capital city.
In the end, 13 American service members and more than 180 Afghan civilians were killed in August by an ISIS-K suicide bomb attack outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport during the frantic evacuation.
During the "NBC Nightly News" interview, President Biden said he rejected the findings of the report.
"On the subject of American citizens, I have to draw your attention to that Army report, an investigative report that’s come out about the lead up to the withdrawal from Afghanistan," Holt said. "It interviewed many military officials and officers, who said the administration ignored the handwriting on the wall. Another describe trying to get folks in the embassy ready to evacuate, encountering people who are in essentially in denial of the situation. Does any of that ring true to you?"
Biden responded, "No. No. That’s not that I was told."
"Look, there was no good time to get out, but if we had not gotten out, they acknowledged we would have had to put a hell of a lot more troops back in," Biden continued. "It wasn’t just 2,000, 4,000, we would have to significantly increase the number of troops, and we’re back in this war of attrition."
Biden then had difficulty remembering which country he was talking about.
"And, and there was no way we were ever going to unite Ukraine, I mean, excuse me, Iraq, Afghanistan," Biden said. "No way that was going to happen. And so this is a much wiser thing to do."
Holt asked Biden if he was rejecting the findings of the report, to which the president replied, "Yes, I am."
When asked if the findings are not true, Biden retorted, "I am rejecting them."
President Biden got a bit peeved during the interview when Holt asked about the latest inflation report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On Thursday, it was announced that the consumer price index rose in January to an annual rate of 7.5% – the highest inflation rate in 40 years.
In July, President Biden said that inflation would be temporary.
Holt told Biden, "I think a lot of Americans are wondering what your definition of temporary is."
Biden responded, "Well, you're being a wise guy with me a little bit, and I understand that's your job."
He then blamed the supply chain crisis for inflation.
"But look, at the time what happened was the — let's look at the reasons for the inflation," Biden said. "The reason for the inflation is the supply chains were cut off, meaning that the products, for example automobiles—the lack of computer chips to be able to build those automobiles so they could function — they need those computer chips. They were not available. So what happens? The number of cars were reduced but made up at one-third the cost of inflation because the price of automobiles were up. "
On the topic of Russia potentially invading Ukraine, Biden told American citizens living there to "leave now."
"It’s not like we’re dealing with a terrorist organization. We’re dealing with one of the largest armies in the world. It’s a very different situation, and things could go crazy quickly," Biden said.
Holt asked the commander in chief if there was a scenario in which he would send troops to Ukraine to rescue American citizens, to which Biden replied, "There’s not. That's a world war when Americans and Russia start shooting at one another."
Holt asked if Biden was afraid that "some states and cities are moving too quickly to loosen indoor mask mandates."
"I committed that I would follow the science, the science as put forward by the CDC and the federal people," Biden answered. "I think it's probably premature, but it's a tough call."
Regarding finding a replacement for Justice Stephen Breyer, Biden said he has done a "deep dive" on "about four people." He believes his nominee will get a vote from Republicans because he's looking for someone who will have "the same kind of capacity" as Justice Breyer.
NBC will release more clips from the interview before the Super Bowl on Sunday.
NBC News Exclusive: One-On-One with President Biden www.youtube.com