Congressman Probes White House Communications With Anti-Israel Group

Rep. Issa seeks info on Biden admin's partnership with Council on American-Islamic Relations

Darrell Issa (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
December 14, 2023

A Republican in Congress is probing the Biden administration's communications with an anti-Israel group that is known to promulgate anti-Semitic propaganda and whose leader celebrated Hamas's Oct. 7 terror attack on Israel, the Washington Free Beacon has learned.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs and Judiciary Committees, opened a probe earlier this week into the White House's relationship with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), asking the White House to turn over all internal correspondence with the group.

The Biden administration enlisted CAIR earlier this year as part of its efforts to combat anti-Semitism, an alliance that drew criticism from pro-Israel groups that say CAIR is one of the leading purveyors of anti-Israel agitprop. CAIR executive director Nihad Awad drew a firestorm of criticism last week after saying he "was happy to see" Hamas "break the siege" on Oct. 7, leading the White House to delete mentions of CAIR from its National Strategy to Combat Antisemitism.

Issa says the White House is engaged in "obvious attempts to both conceal the truth and erase it from public view" and is asking the Biden administration to turn over "any and all text messages, emails, and formal correspondence between all White House personnel and CAIR," according to a copy of the letter obtained by the Free Beacon. The lawmaker is also seeking "all visitor logs to the White House that include any official or affiliate of CAIR—as well as all White House staff who coordinated, approved, or met with—any official or affiliate of CAIR."

The Biden administration has been under fire for its outreach to CAIR in light of the group's years-long dissemination of materials that watchdog groups, such as the Anti-Defamation League, characterize as "antisemitic and anti-Zionist." Watchdogs have also criticized the group for its leader's celebration of the Hamas attack on Israel.

"The people of Gaza only decided to break the siege, the walls of the concentration camp, on October 7," Awad said. "And yes, I was happy to see people breaking the siege and throwing down the shackles of their own land, and walk free into their land that they were not allowed to walk in. And yes, the people of Gaza have the right to self-defense, have the right to defend themselves, and yes, Israel, as an occupying power, does not have that right to self-defense."

While the White House distanced itself from CAIR following Awad's remarks on the Hamas attack, calling them "shocking, antisemitic statements," Issa maintains the Biden administration must have known about the organization's long standing anti-Israel bent before deciding to ally with it.

"It is widely known that CAIR maintains close and continuous ties to the Muslim Brotherhood," Issa wrote. "Indeed, the Department of Justice in United States of America v. the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development—a case of a terror finance scheme that benefited Hamas—CAIR was named by our government as an unindicted co-conspirator."

The White House until last week prominently featured CAIR as a member of its coalition to fight anti-Semitism. A day after Awad's remarks, the White House deleted an online document about its efforts to combat anti-Semitism that included CAIR as a member organization. The document resurfaced a day later with references to CAIR removed, which Issa called "a craven attempt to whitewash history."

Issa is asking the White House to explain "what legal authority" it has "to edit public documents and represent them at a future date as the original material." Altering official government documents could run afoul of the Presidential Records Act, which requires that all official communications be retained in their original form.

"The White House may well be embarrassed by its past association with CAIR, but the remedy for this is to tell the truth, not erase it and hope no one notices," Issa wrote. "Yet that is exactly what the White House has sought to do."