Administration

Trump confirms he authorized Rand Paul to negotiate with Iran

President Trump on Friday confirmed he has authorized Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to negotiate with Iran over reducing tensions, reversing himself a day after he denied reports he permitted Paul to serve as an emissary to Tehran. 

"Rand is a friend of mine, and Rand asked me if he could get involved. The answer is yes, and if the other senators ask me to get involved, I'd probably say yes depending on who they were," Trump told reporters at the White House Friday. "I have many people involved, and Iran is going to work out very nicely. "

On Thursday, Trump told reporters he had not signed off on Paul's request to help reduce tensions with Iran.

"I would listen to him, but I didn't appoint him, no," he said. "No, he's somebody I listen to, and I respect Sen. Paul, and if he had some ideas I would listen." 

Politico first reported Wednesday that Paul, a staunch isolationist, proposed meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to try to restart negotiations on the White House's behalf and that Trump approved.

Paul has clashed with some of the president's more hawkish advisers, including national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and is an outspoken critic of U.S. military interventions in foreign countries. Earlier this year he stressed that the Trump administration must seek approval from Congress if it seeks to go to war with Iran. 

Tensions between Washington and Tehran have skyrocketed in recent weeks as Iran exceeded the limits placed on its uranium enrichment by an Obama-era nuclear pact. Trump withdrew the U.S. from the deal last year, but international observers confirmed that Tehran had stayed within the agreement's bounds until recently.

Trump since withdrawing from the deal has slapped stringent sanctions on Iran's oil industry, metals sector, Revolutionary Guard Corps and supreme leader, which he says have crippled the country's economy.

"Iran is showing their colors. Going to work out very nicely. Iran is in big trouble right now," Trump said Friday. "A lot of bad things are happening to them. It's very easy to straighten out, or it's very easy for us to make it a lot worse."

Trump has insisted the administration remains open to negotiating with Iran over its nuclear ambitions and support for armed groups in the region.

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