The PJ Tatler

Menendez Unloads on 'Alarming' Reports of Pressure from White House to Rush Removal of Cuba from Terror List

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) insisted that Congress step in if the Obama administration removes Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terror, as is expected soon.

Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told CNN yesterday that the State Department was conducting the review “based on the facts,” sending the recommendation to Secretary of State John Kerry who then makes the recommendation to President Obama.

“But again, this review is expressly focused on the question of: does Cuba sponsor terrorist organizations? If they do, they should be on the list. If they don’t, the recommendation will come to take them off the list,” Rhodes said. “I think the State Department has done a lot of work the last couple of months. So we’re awaiting that recommendation.”

Menendez issued a statement today following multiple reports that the administration will soon remove Cuba from the list, calling the move “another significant misstep in a misguided policy, and it is both discouraging and alarming to read about unwarranted pressure from the White House to rush the State Department’s review process.”

“As the Castro regime continues to provide sanctuary to Joanne Chesimard, who is on the FBI’s list of Most Wanted Terrorists for murdering a New Jersey State Trooper, the Obama Administration is ceding critical leverage in our efforts to bring a brazen criminal to justice,” the senator said. “This decision would also ignore the fact that Cuba is harboring dozens of American fugitives – including cop killers, plane hijackers, bomb makers, and arms traffickers – and Basque terrorists wanted by the Government of Spain.”

“In 2013, Cuba was caught colluding with North Korea to smuggle jets, missile batteries, and other weaponry in direct violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions. And, earlier this month, the Government of Colombia detained a Chinese ship trafficking explosives and arms to Cuba,” Menendez continued.

“The Castro regime’s utter disregard for international security standards should not be rewarded with continued concessions from the United States, and any decision to remove Cuba from the State Sponsors of Terrorism must have close scrutiny by the Congress.”

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf wouldn’t confirm yesterday that the review is on Kerry’s desk. “I’m just not going to get into where it is in the internal process until we’re finished,” she said.

“You’ll recall that this is a process that begins at the State Department, but it doesn’t end there, that there are some other steps to the process beyond that. And we’re still, as — as far as I know, as of right now, that the — that the — that that designation — that that open policy question still resides in at the State Department,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Tuesday.

“I would anticipate that it will move to the next state relatively soon, as the deputy national security adviser referred to. But I wouldn’t necessarily expect a final decision in the next day or two.”

Obama arrives in Panama on Thursday evening for the Summit of the Americas. Earnest wouldn’t confirm if Obama plans on sitting down with Cuban dictator Raul Castro.

“At previous summits of the Americas, there have been occasion where the president’s been standing on stage with President Castro. I think this is true of previous presidents, too. I don’t have any additional — so I guess my point is that it wouldn’t be unprecedented for a president to interact with the leader of Cuba when he’s at a meeting with world leaders from throughout the Western Hemisphere,” Earnest said. “I don’t have any additional details about what the president’s planning while he’s in Panama. But we’ll certainly keep you posted on that.”