Chris Murphy Admits He Secretly Met With Iranian Foreign Minister

Javad Zarif was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department last August.

Sen. Chris Murphy / Getty Images
February 18, 2020

Senator Chris Murphy (D., Conn.) admitted Tuesday that he secretly met with Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif at an international security conference.

Murphy met with Zarif after criticizing the Trump administration's Middle East policy in a speech to the Munich Security Conference last week. Murphy remained silent when reports of the meeting emerged on Monday, but acknowledged he met with top Iranian regime officials in a Medium post published Tuesday.

"For years, I have met on occasion with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, during both the Obama and Trump Administrations," he wrote. "I have no delusions about Iran—they are our adversary, responsible for the killing of thousands of Americans and unacceptable levels of support for terrorist organizations throughout the Middle East. But I think it's dangerous to not talk to your enemies."

Murphy, whose office did not respond to a request for comment, wrote that he and Zarif discussed U.S. prisoners held in Iran, belligerent actions from the Iranian-aligned Houthis in Yemen, and Iranian responses to what Murphy called "the Soleimani assassination."

The admission came hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo harshly criticized Murphy's meeting in remarks to reporters. Pompeo noted the United States government has designated Zarif the regime's chief propagandist.

"He's the foreign minister for a country that shot down an airliner and has yet to turn over the black boxes," Pompeo said. "This is the foreign minister of a country that killed an American on December 27. This is the foreign minister of a country that is the world's largest state sponsor of terror and the world's largest sponsor of anti-Semitism."

Murphy defended his meeting, which was first reported by the Federalist, saying "If Trump isn't going to talk to Iran, then someone should. And Congress is a co-equal branch of government, responsible along with the Executive for setting foreign policy."

That stance contrasts with Murphy's rhetoric during the Obama administration when 47 Republican senators sent a letter to the Iranian regime warning that the Senate had the power to reject any nuclear deal. At the time, Murphy said the letter was "undermining the authority of the president" and called on Republicans to respect "the difference between what the executive branch and what the legislative branch is supposed to be doing surrounding delicate negotiations."