WASHINGTON — The White House said Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes will not be testifying at a Tuesday House hearing because it’s not “a fair deal for people who lied about the Iran deal to question the person that told the truth,” in the words of press secretary Josh Earnest.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee called the hearing on the White House’s messaging surrounding the Iran nuclear deal after a New York Times article detailed how Rhodes helmed the effort to spin the deal to sell it to Congress and the American public.
According to the committee, the hearing is “to examine the process by which the Obama administration negotiated the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with the Islamic Republic of Iran” and “to assess how the White House communicated the JCPOA—and the negotiations leading up to it—to Congress and the American people.”
Rhodes was invited along with scholars from D.C. think tanks.
In a letter today to Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), counsel to the president W. Neil Eggleston argued that the administration had already communicated with lawmakers during the deal’s congressional review period.
“While the Administration will continue to consult closely with Congress on this important matter, testimony by one of the most senior advisers to the President raises significant constitutional concerns rooted in the separation of powers,” Eggleston wrote. “Specifically, the appearance of a senior presidential adviser before Congress threatens the independence and autonomy of the President, as well as his ability to receive candid advice and counsel in the discharge of his constitutional duties.”
“For these reasons, administrations of both parties have declined to make the President’s closest advisers available to testify before Congress about their service to the President. Consistent with this practice, we will not make Mr. Rhodes available to testify.”
At the daily press briefing, however, Earnest pointed more to the reasoning that Iran deal opponents had lied, so they shouldn’t get to accuse Rhodes of perpetuating administration lies.
“The truth is, it is Republicans in Congress who criticize the Iran deal who’ve got a lot to explain when it comes to saying things about the Iran deal that didn’t turn out to be true. And if they want to hold a hearing to determine whether or not Republicans were just wrong and badly misinformed or if they were purposely lying to the American people, then they can do that,” Earnest said.
“…I think what’s true is that previous administrations have been fairly skeptical of these kinds of efforts, particularly because this isn’t a whole lot more than a three-ring circus that Republicans are looking to organize up there.”
Pressed further on the administration’s refusal to send Rhodes, Earnest insisted “we have all of the available evidence that’s necessary to evaluate who was telling the truth on the Iran deal and who wasn’t.”
“There are members of the committee who are not telling the truth on the Iran deal. So again, if they want to hold a hearing, I think it would be useful, to get to the bottom of why they were so wrong about the Iran deal? Then they’re welcome to do that,” he added.
“Everything that Ben Rhodes said about the Iran deal did turn out to be true… Ben Rhodes is the person who told the truth about the Iran deal and it’s Republicans who are either badly misinformed or downright lying about the Iran deal. And so, if they want to explore that; they are welcome to do that.”