Son of missing ex-FBI agent says Trump's sanctions will help bring father home

The son of a former FBI agent who went missing in Iran in 2007 said Friday that he’s “hopeful” the Trump administration’s increased pressure on the country will help facilitate his father's return. 

Dan Levinson, whose father Robert, a retired FBI agent, went missing off Iran’s Kish Island almost 12 years ago, criticized the government's initial handling of his father's disappearance.

“The government dropped the ball, they didn’t address the situation quickly enough, they didn’t engage with Iran quickly, acknowledge what happened,” Levinson told Hill.TV’s Buck Sexton and Krystal Ball.

“We think that was a big missed opportunity that has led us to that point, but we’re hopeful that the Trump administration’s able to remedy that,” he continued. "That they're going to put all kinds of pressure on Iran and make sure that he's not forgotten and not left behind." 

Levinson praised the Trump administration’s hard-line stance toward Iran. In addition to withdrawing from a landmark Iran nuclear deal, the administration last year reinstated economic sanctions on the country, targeting its banking, oil and shipping.

“The fact that they brought back sanctions — it’s going to hopefully bring the Iranians to the table and we felt there was dialogue during the Obama administration and that is necessary," he told Hill.TV. "But there also has to be that pressure that brings Iran to send him home.”

The Levinson family filed a lawsuit against Iran in 2017 over Robert Levinson's disappearance, and have continued to advocate for his release. Christine Levinson, Robert's wife, testified before a House panel on Thursday, during which she expressed frustration about efforts to bring her husband home. 

"My family’s dreams of reuniting with Bob continue to remain just dreams," she told lawmakers. "But so far, their pleas have been met with little action."

“It’s very difficult situation to deal with Iran it’s been three administrations — the Bush administration, this happened in 2007, and we feel like there hasn’t been enough effort to get him home over these years,” Dan Levinson told Hill.TV.

Rep. Ted DeutchTheodore (Ted) Eliot DeutchBacklash erupts at video depicting Trump killing media, critics House Ethics Committee reviewing two GOP lawmakers over campaign finance House Ethics panel reviewing Tlaib over campaign salary MORE (D-Fla.) and Sens. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezPaul blocks Senate vote on House-passed Syria resolution House to vote on resolution condemning Trump's Syria pullback Rand Paul calls for probe of Democrats over Ukraine letter MORE (D-N.J.) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioWhite House staggers after tumultuous 48 hours Erdoğan got the best of Trump, experts warn Hillicon Valley: GOP lawmakers offer election security measure | FTC Dem worries government is 'captured' by Big Tech | Lawmakers condemn Apple over Hong Kong censorship MORE (R-Fla.) on Thursday introduced the Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage-taking Accountability Act. The bipartisan bill is aimed at improving efforts to bring back Americans held in hostage situations or detained unlawfully abroad.

Dan Levinson told Hill.TV that he was heartened by the renewed urgency of such efforts, saying that his family has not given up hope. 

“People have heard he’s being held somewhere, but it’s always encouraging because we believe he’s still alive and that he’s being held by the Iranian government, so we’re going to keep pressing until we get him home,” he said.

— Tess Bonn