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VIENNA—White House officials on Monday held a private conference call with liberal organizations to discuss ways of pressuring Democrats and other lawmakers on Capitol Hill into supporting a nuclear deal with Iran that is expected to be finalized in the coming days, according to an audio recording of that call obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
The call, in which there were more than 100 participants, was organized by the liberal pro-Iran group Ploughshares Fund, which has spent millions of dollars to slant Iran-related coverage and protect the Obama administration’s diplomatic efforts.
The White House officials described a nuclear deal with Iran as President Obama’s “signature foreign policy accomplishment” and urged liberal groups to launch an all-out lobbying campaign to pressure lawmakers, especially Democrats, to back the deal.
Progressive leaders on the call told participants to prepare for a “real war” and repeatedly declared that “the other side will go crazy” in the coming days. The call also included the anti-war group MoveOn.org.
“This has really been on the front burner from a foreign perspective, although not in the public eye necessarily, since the very beginning,” Matt Nosanchuk, an official in the White House Office of Public Engagement, told participants. “This is not an issue of the day, this is really an issue of the presidency.”
The second White House official, John Bisognano, went on to stress “the importance of this to the president.”
“This is clearly an issue that is very close to his heart and something that’s extraordinarily important for the future of frankly the world,” Bisognano said. “I want to make sure everyone understands this is a top priority for the administration, and this is clearly something that we’re all focused on moving forward and excited about hoping that we can come to a solid agreement.”
Leaders of the call emphasized that the assembled groups should target Democrats in order to build a veto-proof majority when the deal eventually comes to Congress for a vote.
Robert Creamer, a member of the liberal political shop Democracy Partners and the general consultant to the anti-Republican Americans United for Change, urged participants on the call to “step up” their pro-Iran efforts.
“We have to take to our memberships all over the country,” Creamer said during the call. “We all have to step up. The other side will go crazy with intensity.”
Progressives should target Democrats by “blitzing the hell out of the Hill,” Creamer said.
“What will be ultimately decisive is the level of intensity that members of Congress feel, particularly Democrats,” said Creamer. “Democrats are actually the key people here because if we can have enough votes to prevent a presidential veto override [of the deal], then we win.”
“That means tons of phone calls, lots of lobbying contacts, not just a couple of good conversations, I mean just blitzing the hell out of the Hill,” he said, rallying participants to prepare for “a big, big battle” over the deal. “This is going to be a real war for the next week.”
At another point in the call, Creamer jumped in to offer a word of encouragement from his wife, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D., Ill.).
“Let me just also note, my wife, Congresswoman Schakowsky, just yelled across the room to me to make clear to everybody that we have to be clear that this is a good deal because it prevents Iran from getting a nuclear weapon,” Creamer said. “The other side will go crazy. We have to be really clear that it’s a good deal.”
Nosanchuk sought to defend the administration from critics who are concerned that the billions of dollars in economic sanctions relief to Iran will be used to fund the country’s terrorist activities.
“With respect to criticisms that any agreement that affords sanctions relief will open the floodgates so that Iran receives all this money it can then pour into its nefarious activities in the region, our response to that is they’re doing it anyway,” Nosanchuk said, explaining that the administration believes Iran will use the money to fix its stagnating economy.
“Our expectation is that sanctions relief will go into bolstering the Iranian economy and not into supporting all these other activities, which as I pointed out, are being supported anyway,” he said.
The White House officials told participants the administration is invested in trying to reach an agreement by July 9.
That date has been set by Congress as the last day the administration can submit a draft of any final deal for a 30-day review by lawmakers. Any draft submitted between July 10 and Sept. 7 would sit in front of Congress for 60 days, providing lawmakers with extra time to scrutinize the deal.
Nosanchuk explained that if Congress fails to act within this time period, “the president has the authority to issue waivers and begin implementing the agreement” without legislative approval.
The White House remains confident that if Congress rejects the deal, the president could veto that action and continue to move forward.
“They could vote to approve it or they vote to disapprove it, and then, of course, if that occurs, we’re put in the position of having to sustain a veto by the president, which we’ll want to work very hard, and we’re confident that if congressional action does take place, we’ll come out on the other side of this with the deal in tact and the president’s signature foreign policy accomplishment being upheld,” said Nosanchuk.