White House shoots back in war over aide's Iran comments

White House shoots back in war over aide's Iran comments
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The White House tried to turn the tables on congressional Republicans on Thursday, after leaders of the House Oversight Committee demanded that a top aide testify over recent comments regarding the nuclear deal with Iran.

Instead of having deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes testify, spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters on Thursday, GOP lawmakers should demand answers from their fellow Republicans.

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“I think there are people who have some explaining to do when it comes to wildly false accusations about the Iran deal, and it’s not the administration,” he said.

In his remarks, Earnest pointed to several instances in which Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSunday shows preview: Coronavirus dominates as country struggles with delta variant More than 10,000 migrants await processing under bridge in Texas Senators slow Biden with holds at Pentagon, State MORE (R-Texas), Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonOvernight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Senate Democrats ding Biden energy proposal MORE (R-Ark.) and others predicted that the deal would lead Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon and become empowered through other means.

“The truth us what the administration has said about the Iran deal, what Mr. Rhodes has said about the Iran deal, what the president of the United States has said about the Iran deal, has come true,” he added.

“I don’t know whether our critics were just willfully misinformed, mistaken or lying,” Earnest said. “But if Republicans were interested in getting to the bottom of this, then they just swear in members of their own conference.”

Earnest did not specifically rule out Rhodes’s appearance in the Oversight Committee next week, though he strongly indicated that it would not happen.

The move could prompt committee Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzCongress's latest hacking investigation should model its most recent Fox News Audio expands stable of podcasts by adding five new shows The myth of the conservative bestseller MORE (R-Utah) to subpoena the senior adviser, as he has threatened to do.

The committee’s demands for Rhodes to testify at a hearing next Tuesday morning followed days of criticism for comments he made in a New York Times Magazine story. In the article, Rhodes appeared contemptuous of journalists and prominent Washington foreign policy think tanks and boasted about creating an “echo chamber” of support for the nuclear deal with Iran.

The decision for him to participate in the story was made by multiple officials within the White House, Earnest said.

“Ben has had a very broad policy portfolio at the White House, and he has carried out his responsibilities honorably and with distinction,” he added. “I think everybody at the White House is quite proud to work with him.”

In a series of Twitter messages on Thursday, New York Times Magazine editor in chief Jake Silverstein defended the article and insisted that editors “stand behind the piece 100%.”

The Iran deal, which went into full effect earlier this year, sets limits on Iran’s ability to build a nuclear weapon in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions that have hampered Iran’s economy. In addition to concerns about verifying whether Iran lives up to its side of the agreement, critics have alleged that it opens the door for Tehran to build a bomb when terms expire in 10 or 15 years.