White House press secretary Josh Earnest lashed out at Republican lawmakers Monday for inviting Obama aide Ben Rhodes to testify in a congressional hearing this week on the Iran nuclear deal, calling opponents of the nuclear accord in Congress liars who are deceiving the public about its content.
Fox News correspondent Kevin Corke asked Earnest at the White House daily press briefing if it would be "instructive if not enlightening" for Rhodes, the president’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, to appear before Congress to discuss the Iran deal.
"Ben Rhodes is the person who told the truth about the Iran deal, and it’s Republicans who are either badly misinformed or outright lying about the Iran deal," Earnest said in response.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R., Utah) invited Rhodes last week to testify at a May 17 hearing on the Iran deal. The invitation came shortly after a lengthy New York Times profile of Rhodes was published in which the communications guru is quoted describing how he created a false narrative to pass the agreement amid strong congressional opposition. The Obama administration has since come under fire in recent weeks over possibly deceiving the media and the American public to sell the Iran deal as it was being debated in Congress. Rhodes has not yet responded to the invitation but will reportedly skip the hearing.
Earnest defended Rhodes on Monday and argued that Republicans are the ones who have twisted facts about the nuclear accord.
"We have all of the available evidence that’s necessary to evaluate who was telling the truth on the Iran deal and who wasn’t," Earnest said. "There are members of the [House Oversight] Committee who are not telling the truth on the Iran deal. So, again, if they want to hold a hearing, and they think it would be useful to get to the bottom of why they were so wrong about the Iran deal, then they’re welcome to do that."
Earnest told reporters everything that Rhodes said about the Iran deal turned out to be true while GOP lawmakers engaged in deception.
"So you think that it’s going to be a fair deal for people who lied about the Iran deal to question the person who told the truth?" Earnest asked Corke. "I don’t really understand why getting to the bottom of who lied about the Iran deal requires somebody who told the truth about the Iran deal to participate. Let’s just swear the liars under oath, and let’s see what they have to say for themselves."
Earnest singled out Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), suggesting he is a liar by arguing that he presented information about the deal that was not true. Cotton has been a vocal critic of the agreement who is on Chaffetz’s list of witnesses to testify this week.
Earnest then went through certain aspects of the agreement to make the case that it prevents Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.
"I’m not trying to relitigate the conversation," Corke said. "I’m just wondering if there would be more clarity if a guy of Ben Rhodes’ ... intimate knowledge of the details, if that wouldn’t be helpful. And if it would be, why not make him available?"
In response, Earnest listed past instances when administration officials spoke with members of congress about the content of the detail and provided them information.
"So, if it were a matter of just one hearing that would convince Republicans to stop lying or at least to start telling the truth when it comes to the Iran deal, then presumably that would have happened in one of the first 3o or so meetings we had with them," Earnest said. "So I’m not sure that the 31st hearing in 18 months is going to get them to straighten up and act right."
Earnest was asked about Rhodes testifying on the Iran deal last week and gave a similarly frustrated response in which he defended the deputy national security adviser and suggested Republicans were the ones guilty of deception.