A cadre of former top Obama administration figures and their allies in Congress have been working to amplify anti-Trump talking points issued by a senior Iranian regime official in what sources have described as an effort by Obama's pro-Iran echo chamber to drive a wedge between President Donald Trump and his national security team.
As tensions mount between the United States and Iran, leading Democrats have become embroiled in controversy for widely repeating anti-Trump talking points first issued by Iran's hardline regime.
Additionally, former top officials from the Obama administration have taken to social media and other outlets to push a narrative that Trump is at odds with his hawkish National Security Adviser John Bolton over how far to go in punishing Tehran for its global support of terrorism and continued efforts to secure contested nuclear technology.
The effort to push this narrative to the media has gained steam following a war of words between Trump and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who is said to have been in contact with top Democrats in Congress and their allies in the Obama administration, sources said.
Just days after Zarif labeled Bolton and other top Trump national security officials as the "B Team," former top Obama aides Ben Rhodes and Colin Kahl repeated this rhetoric online in a series of postings bashing Trump. Rhodes and Kahl are most well known as the creators of a pro-Iran "echo chamber" that was used to mislead Congress and the American public about the terms of the landmark nuclear deal, which Trump abandoned last year.
It has become increasingly clear in recent days that these former officials and their Democratic allies in Congress are seeking to build support for the United States to reenter the Iran nuclear deal should a Democrat defeat Trump in the next election, as the Washington Free Beacon has reported in past weeks.
The direct line between Tehran and top Democrats spilled further into public view last week when photographs from the cellphone of Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D., Calif.), a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, showed that she had been in contact with Zarif, a primary architect of the nuclear accord. Photographs of Feinstein's phone showed a contact page with Zarif's information, prompting her office to rebuff requests for explanation.
"I can't comment on who the senator does or doesn't speak with," Feinstein's communication's director told Politico.
Multiple officials involved in the Iran debate expressed shock that leading Democrats continue to boost Iran's anti-Trump threats. They view the network of former officials and their allies as doing all they can to subvert Trump, even if it means siding with the Iranian regime in the standoff between the two countries.
"Obama's echo chamber and their pro-Iran deal allies in Congress are putting partisan politics over country, and have the chutzpah to literally repeat the Iranian regime's talking points," said one senior GOP congressional official, who would speak only on background to discuss the growing divide.
"The truth is that, under Obama's disgraceful and dangerous nuclear deal, Iran got access to over $100 billion in immediate sanctions and a green light to ramp up its support for terrorism and militancy in the Middle East," the source said. "Iran, under Obama's watch, joined forces with Russia to prop up the Assad regime [in Syria], which repeatedly used chemical weapons and barrel bombs on civilians and is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of civilians."
"While Team Obama stood idly by as Iran-backed aggression ravaged the Middle East, President Trump is maximizing coercive economic pressure on the Iranian regime and deterring and punishing Iranian-backed aggression against American interests," the official said.
Former Obama aides Rhodes and Kahl, along with other senior figures from the administration, have continued to use their network of sympathetic writers and liberal talking heads amplify the Iranian regime's rhetoric and build greater anti-Trump fervor. This has emboldened the Iranian regime, which sees an opportunity to drive a further wedge between U.S. political factions.
Former Secretary of State John Kerry, for instance, has engaged multiple times in shadow diplomacy, meeting with Zarif on several occasions to plot how Iran can salvage the nuclear deal and retain its access to the billions in cash windfalls.
A second senior Republican congressional official also involved in the Iran fight said the deep ties between senior Iranian officials such as Zarif and top Democrats is becoming increasingly clear.
"A few weeks ago no one up here was talking about Bolton being a warmonger or anything like that," the source said. "It was all about Trump. Then Zarif showed up in New York and gave them their 'B Team' talking points, and suddenly that's all you hear wall to wall. It would be obvious even if we didn't know that senators have him on speed dial, but now there's photographic evidence of that too."
Though Trump has made it increasingly clear that he is not seeking a military confrontation with Iran, the hardline regime has sought to fan the flames by issuing repeated military threats and using its terror proxy groups to conduct attacks on U.S. coalition partners in the region.
However, Democratic leaders like Sen. Richard Durbin (D., Ill.) have said it is Trump who is "itching for a confrontation with Iran."
"It gives new meaning to the phrase 'Iran echo chamber'—these Democratic operatives and members are truly echoing Iranian propaganda at the possible expense of American lives," a third source who is also involved in the Iran issue told the Free Beacon. "What is happening to the Democratic Party when its leaders will side with terrorists over their own country? The new scandal everyone should be talking about is the Iran Collusion Scandal—because that's what's happening."