In his first TV interview since he was indicted by the Justice Department, Sen. Robert Menendez told Fox News Sunday that he will be vindicated to continue to “fight for our national security and against a nuclear-armed Iran.”
Asked if his strong criticism of administration policies on Iran and Cuba led to his indictment, the senator replied, “Look, it’s very clear that I have very strong views about democracy and human rights in Cuba and a policy that I think undermines our efforts to promote democracy and human rights in Cuba.”
He also has “a very clear concern to the national interests and security of the United States and our ally to the state of Israel about Iran and its nuclear weapon ambitions, but I cannot imagine that an administration, this or any other, would go to such lengths and undermine our constitutional democracy.”
President Obama, Menendez said, “has a misguided calculation that if you open your hands to dictators that they will un-clench their fists.”
“And while Raul Castro may have said some nice things about President Obama, at the same time, just last month, we had 600 arrests of innocent people inside of Cuba who were detained, many political activists and human rights activists who were not allowed to leave the country to go to the Panama Summit. And last year we had 1,600 detentions and there are still many long political prisoners sitting and languishing in Castro’s jails,” he said.
“And when you say that and provide those facts as well as their violations of armed shipments in contravention to international law and a whole host of other things like having one of the ten top terrorists of the FBI list in their country, then people change their attitude about what this policy is all about.”
On Iran, Menendez called Obama’s shift to try to “contain or administer” Iran’s nuclear program “a fundamental change in our global policy.”
“Many of us before the framework agreement was announced said is this going to be in writing because if, in fact, it’s not in writing then you’re going to have different interpretations and sure enough, you have different interpretations, you have different interpretations on sanctions relief. The Iranians shouldn’t get a sign-in bonus,” he said of Tehran coming out and contradicting the White House point of view.
“You have different interpretations about research and development, that’s critically important because how far can they advance their research and developments? Or at some point their breakout could even be shorter.”
Plus, the senator added, “inspections are incredibly important.”
“They still have not come clean with the International Atomic Energy Administration over their past militarization efforts weaponizing their nuclear program,” he said. “So, we need to know how far did they get in their weaponization efforts so that we understand not only the breakout time, but how quickly they can weaponize that effort. All of these and many other elements are clearly in dispute.”
Menendez wouldn’t disclose the nature of his conversations about the Corker-Menendez bill mandating that Congress be able to review any final deal. “Let me just simply say, I’m not backing off,” he said.
“I honestly believe that it is congressional duty — and I would say to all my colleagues who originally believe that there was a congressional duty here — to review whatever agreement comes about,” he said. “This is simply a review process. That review may determine that at the end of the day people will think that it is an inappropriate deal. They may determine that it is not… But at least after 2 1/2 years of negotiation the Congress should have 60 days to be able to review probably the most significant nuclear nonproliferation agreement of our times.”
“…What I am not open to considering is delaying and/or not pursuing a vote for the Congress to ultimately have a process, an organized, thoughtful process to review any final deal that may be achieved. And I believe such a process no way undermines any potential negotiations from here to June.”