Congress Pushes to Subpoena the Biden Administration's Iran Deal Ringleaders

June 22, 2023

House Republicans are laying the groundwork to subpoena top Biden administration officials over clandestine efforts to secure a revamped nuclear deal with Iran that would free up billions of dollars for the hardline regime, according to internal congressional plans obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

The Republican Study Committee (RSC), Congress’s largest conservative caucus, is leaning on party leadership to immediately launch a multi-pronged investigation into the Biden administration’s secret negotiations with Iran, which are expected to result in a fresh agreement that evades congressional oversight. As part of these investigations, the group wants to subpoena U.S.-Iran Envoy Robert Malley and White House national security aide Brett McGurk, both of whom are key players in the administration’s backdoor diplomacy with Tehran.

"Biden's diplomats are trying to unlawfully implement a secret deal with the Iranian terrorist regime to give them tens of billions of dollars," the RSC wrote in an action memo obtained by the Free Beacon that will be blasted to all House Republicans later on Thursday. "They do not want Congress or the American people to know what's in the Biden Iran deal or how much money they will send the Ayatollah."

While the administration has denied engaging in discussions with Iran, multiple reports have surfaced in recent months indicating that U.S. diplomats are holding indirect talks with Tehran via mediators in Oman. The Biden administration is aiming to secure a series of "mutual understandings" with Tehran that will ease sanctions on the hardline regime in exchange for minimal restrictions on the country’s nuclear program. This deal, congressional sources told the Free Beacon, is specifically being constructed to skirt laws mandating that lawmakers have a vote on the agreement.

"This is unacceptable," the memo states. "Malley and McGurk should testify before a public hearing regarding this deal, and the committees of jurisdiction—including the House Foreign Affairs Committee, House Oversight Committee, and House Financial Services Committee—should be prepared to use the subpoena power if necessary."

To date, both Malley and McGurk have refused to publicly testify before Congress, although they have participated in classified briefings. McGurk–who was caught having an extramarital affair with a reporter in 2008 while serving as the Obama administration's ambassadorial nominee to Iraq—is believed to be the driving force behind the talks in Oman and is working under orders from the White House, congressional sources told the Free Beacon.

The RSC further assesses that "a formal congressional investigation is warranted to determine whether the Biden administration conspired to violate the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act." This law was passed in 2015, after the Obama administration unilaterally bypassed Congress to ink the original nuclear deal with Iran.

"It seems clear," the RSC writes, "that the Biden administration does not plan to submit the agreement for a vote in Congress, despite being required to do so by law."

A Biden administration ally appeared to confirm these plans in recently unearthed video from a conference organized by the anti-Israel group J Street. During the roundtable, which featured earlier remarks from Malley, former Obama administration lawyer Tess Bridgeman said it is important for the administration to prevent Congress from authorizing any new deal

"With elections coming up, we are not going to see the administration do anything that requires voting in Congress, so I think it’s really important to keep in mind ... that [agreements] be in that realm of discretionary, unilateral gestures," Bridgeman said. "Something that’s written down on a piece of paper for all sides to try to implement is a recipe for Congress making it impossible."

This statement, the RSC says in its memo, "makes it clear why the administration is denying entering into any agreement or deal."

Rep. Kevin Hern (R., Okla.), the RSC’s chairman, said the contours of the new agreement are "even worse than Obama’s Iran deal."

"Biden can call it whatever he wants but it’s clear what he is doing—negotiating a deal with the terrorists in Iran behind Congress’ back," Hern told the Free Beacon. "Paying ransom to terrorists is only going to encourage more terrorism and put more Americans at risk of kidnapping around the world."

The talks with Iran have been making progress, leading Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to publicly accuse the Biden administration of appeasing the hardline regime at a time when it is facing an unprecedented wave of popular protests that threaten its grip on power.

The United States has also granted several sanctions waivers in the past several months, including permitting Iraq to make multi-billion dollar payments to Iran. These side deals are believed to be part of a concessions package meant to cajole Tehran into rolling back portions of its nuclear enrichment program.

"Biden’s Iran Deal will gift tens of billions in sanctions relief to Iran—the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism—and lead to even weaker restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program," the RSC warns in its memo. "It will also fund both sides of the war in Ukraine even, as Iran is providing Russia with hundreds of drones to use in Ukraine and helping Russia build a drone factory."

In its attempt to interfere with the Biden administration’s latest deal, the RSC is urging its members to fast track new sanctions legislation that could derail the talks and prevent the White House from using executive orders to ease economic pressure on Iran.

Rep. Joe Wilson (R., S.C.), chair of the RSC’s national security task force, said there is no doubt that a new deal "would be rejected on a bipartisan basis."

"We are betraying the ‘woman, life, freedom’ revolution and the women of Iran by bailing out this terrorist regime right at its weakest point," Wilson told the Free Beacon.

Behnam Ben Taleblu, an Iran analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said the ongoing discussions in Oman provide "proof that deal-making was never really on the back-burner, as many administration officials previously alleged."

"This agreement," Taleblu added, "will help Iran pay off its debts and improve its liquidity, which means that more resources will be freed up for Iran to continue to improve its missile and drone programs."

UPDATE: This piece has been updated to clarify Malley's role in the J Street event.