Kerry: GOP Iran letter ‘absolutely calculated’ to interfere with talks

Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryDemocratic debates are magnet for lobbyists The Memo: Sanders-Warren battle could reshape Democratic primary Bring on the brokered convention MORE said in an interview broadcast Sunday that a letter to Iranian leaders signed by 47 Republican senators was “absolutely calculated directly to interfere with these negotiations.”

“It specifically inserts itself directly to the leader of another country saying, ‘Don't negotiate with these guys because we're going to change this,’ which by the way, is not only contrary to the Constitution with respect to the executive's right to negotiate, but it is incorrect because they cannot change an executive agreement,” Kerry said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

“So it's false information and directly calculated to interfere and basically say, ‘Don't negotiate with them. You've got to negotiate with 535 members of Congress,’ ” he added.


Kerry called the letter “unprecedented.”

“I do know that the effect and the intent of the author was to basically say, ‘Don't do this deal,” he said. “And by the way, that's to say that before there … even is a deal.”

Kerry compared the situation to “giving people a grade on a test before the test is even written, let along given.”

Kerry said he won’t apologize for the letter when nuclear negotiations resume Sunday night.

“Not on your life. I'm not going to apologize for [an] unconstitutional, un-thought-out action by somebody who's been in the United States Senate for 60 something days,” he said, referring to freshman Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonDemocrats, Republicans tussle over witnesses as vote approaches GOP senator says idea that Ukraine interfered in US election is 'not a conspiracy theory' Sunday shows - Spotlight shifts to Trump tweet, Senate trial witnesses MORE (R-Ark.). “That's just inappropriate.”


“I will explain very clearly that Congress does not have the right to change an executive agreement,” he said. “Another president may have a different view about it.”

Kerry said the administration would still “have a number of options available to us” if Tehran “moved along the road to decide suddenly to break out and rush to try to have enough fissile material to build a bomb.”

“President Obama has said they are all on the table,” he said. “And he has also pledged very publicly and very clearly on a number of occasions Iran will not be allowed to get a nuclear weapon.”

The interview broadcast followed a warning from the Obama administration late Saturday that legislation introduced in the Senate could derail Iran nuclear negotiations.

“The Administration’s request to the Congress is simple: let us complete the negotiations before the Congress acts on legislation,” White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonoughDenis Richard McDonoughFormer Obama officials willing to testify on McCabe's behalf: report Trailer shows first look at Annette Bening as Dianne Feinstein 2020 Democrats fight to claim Obama's mantle on health care MORE wrote in a letter to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerRNC says ex-Trump ambassador nominee's efforts 'to link future contributions to an official action' were 'inappropriate' Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing MORE (R-Tenn.).

McDonough wrote the administration has “welcomed Congress’ important role” in U.S. policy toward Iran and “takes seriously our continued engagement with Congress on the issue.”

But legislation introduced by Corker and Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezMedia's selective outrage exposed in McSally-Raju kerfuffle Dem senators say Iran threat to embassies not mentioned in intelligence briefing Overnight Defense: Iran crisis eases as Trump says Tehran 'standing down' | Dems unconvinced on evidence behind Soleimani strike | House sets Thursday vote on Iran war powers MORE (D-N.J.) that would allow Congress 60 days to review any nuclear deal struck with Iran before its implementation “goes well beyond ensuring that Congress has a role to play in any deal with Iran,” he added, repeating a veto threat.