How panicked is the White House over the Ben Rhodes revelations on Iran?
Josh Earnest, who is usually hard to ruffle, went off on an unhinged rant against Republicans after being asked whether Rhodes would testify.
Q The Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has invited Ben Rhodes to testify at a hearing on the Iran nuclear deal. Is this an invitation that the White House has to accept or reject?
MR. EARNEST: Well, with all due respect to the Chairman, if he has an interest in a hearing about false narratives as it relates to the Iran deal, then I've got some suggestions for people that they should swear in. In fact, some members of the committee actually may have some light to shed on this. Congressman Ken Buck from Colorado promised in August of 2015 that Iran would get $100 billion to $200 billion in sanctions relief. Congressman Buck is either wrong or lying, and he can discuss that with the committee. He's a member of the committee, so presumably he knows where the hearing room is, so he can just show up at the appointed time and explain his false declaration.
Paul Gosar -- I assume I'm pronouncing that correctly -- he was quoted in September of 2015, saying that this would provide immediate access to approximately $100 billion. Again, we now know -- we can verify that's not true. So again, I don’t know if Mr. Gosar was just wildly misinformed or was lying to the American public. But presumably, if he feels so strongly about this issue, he can explain himself under oath before the committee. He serves on the committee, too, so it shouldn’t be too hard to arrange his schedule.
Cynthia Lummis, congresswoman -- she explained that, in September of 2015, she claimed that the proposed deal "will lead to a nuclear-armed Iran." That, of course, has not turned out to be true. And, in fact, we can verify that that is false. So Congresswoman Lummis serves on the committee. Why don’t we swear her in and explain where she got this information. And she can explain whether she was just wrong or lying. She may also explain why she continues to make this argument.
I don’t know what the protocol is for swearing in members of the United States Senate to participate in these kinds of hearings, but there are any number of senators who could participate. Senator Cruz could certainly participate. He claimed, in August of 2015, over $100 billion will flow into Iran as a result of the deal. We've got Senator Tom Cotton, who I know has a special relationship with the Supreme Leader, so maybe he's got some interesting insight into the deal that he would like to share with the committee. He said that the deal "gives them" -- meaning, Iran -- "$150 billion of sanctions relief." Not true. Senator Cotton, wildly wrong or lying. And so let's have Chairman Chaffetz get to the bottom of this.
This rant is sad and desperate. It seems like the brainchild of Ben Rhodes.
The problem with it is that Iran itself claims $100 billion in sanctions relief and Obama's own Treasury Secretary testified to that.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew testified to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs that some $115 billion in frozen Iranian assets would be “theoretically available” under sanctions relief, but that Iran would only have access to $56 billion because most of the money was tied up in unpaid debts around the world.
So the argument here largely rests on a debate about how much money Iran would have access to. Earnest is arguing a technicality while beating his chest and calling Republicans liars for stating the facts.
It's a sad performance. The most ridiculous part of it may be attacking Congresswoman Lumis because she said that the deal "will lead to a nuclear-armed Iran" and a year later, Iran doesn't officially have nukes. This is the sort of attack you expect from a six-year old.
For that matter, Obama has admitted that there will be a near zero breakout time to the bomb.
Defending an emerging nuclear deal, President Barack Obama said Iran would be kept a year away from obtaining a nuclear weapon for more than a decade, but conceded Tuesday that the buffer period could shrink to almost nothing after 13 or more years
“What is a more relevant fear would be that in Year 13, 14, 15, they have advanced centrifuges that enrich uranium fairly rapidly, and at that point, the breakout times would have shrunk almost down to zero,” Obama said.
Is Earnest calling Obama and Lew, liars?
But the larger issue is that this kind of desperate attack, wildly tossing out accusations, is what politicians do when they're worried (or unhinged). This looks a lot like desperate flailing.