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Analysis: Trump’s Iran deal claims against Corker don’t add up

By Michael Collins • Updated Oct 12, 2017 at 9:00 AM

WASHINGTON (TNS) – President Donald Trump and the White House were using a line of attack often hurled by some conservatives when they claimed this week that Sen. Bob Corker was responsible for the Iran nuclear deal.

But the facts don’t back them up.

Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, opposed the nuclear deal and spoke out frequently against the international pact, which was negotiated by the administration of President Barack Obama in 2015.

In one particularly memorable exchange, the Tennessee Republican hauled then-Secretary of State John Kerry before his committee, grilled him about the deal and then proclaimed bluntly: “I believe you’ve been fleeced.”

In Congress, Corker led the opposition to the agreement and authored legislation that put in place a process for lawmakers to review and eventually vote on the deal. Obama had planned to implement the agreement without congressional approval before Corker’s bipartisan legislation.

In addition to giving Congress a say in the deal, the Corker-authored bill required that the president certify every 90 days that Iran is complying with the terms of the nuclear agreement.

Trump, who has derided the nuclear pact as “the worst deal ever,” is expected to announce this week that he will not certify the agreement – the beginning of a process that could eventually lead to the return of U.S. sanctions against Iran.

Yet despite his vocal opposition to the nuclear agreement, the perception that Corker was somehow responsible for the deal has persisted in some conservative circles, despite evidence to the contrary.

Trump repeated that claim when he lashed out at the senator in a series of tweets on Sunday.

Corker is “largely responsible for the horrendous Iran Deal!,” Trump wrote.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders made a similar claim during a press briefing on Tuesday.

“Senator Corker worked with Nancy Pelosi and the Obama administration to pave the way for that legislation, and basically rolled out the red carpet for the Iran Deal,” she said from the White House podium. “And those are pretty factual.”

Not really.

The Associated Press,The New York Times and factcheck.org have all looked into the claims that Corker was responsible for the Iran deal and found them baseless.

The confusion stems to some degree from a misinterpretation of the role Congress played in the agreement.

Conservatives have blamed Corker for failing to block the deal, which the Obama administration negotiated with other Western powers. The pact required Iran to dismantle key elements of its nuclear program in exchange for the removal of economic sanctions that crippled its economy.

The deal’s critics argue it should have been handled as a treaty, which would have required Senate ratification.

But the White House, not the Congress, decides whether such agreements are considered a treaty.

The Constitution gives the executive branch of government the ultimate decision to submit treaties to the Senate for ratification. And the Obama administration made clear from the beginning of the negotiations it did not consider the deal a treaty and instead planned to take the pact directly to the United Nations Security Council.

That would have meant the agreement would have gone forward without any congressional review.

To make sure Congress had its say, Corker negotiated a bill with Democrats that allowed Congress to review the deal and, if lawmakers could find the votes, stop it from moving forward.

The Senate passed the bill on a 98-1 vote, the House approved it by a 400-25 margin, and Obama signed it into law.

A few months later, after reviewing the deal under the terms laid out under Corker’s bill, Senate Republicans tried at least three times to quash the deal or prevent sanctions relief for Iran.

Each time, the measure failed on a procedural vote to get the 60 votes needed to overcome a Democratic filibuster. In every case, Corker voted with other Republicans to kill or strengthen the deal, according to factcheck.org.

Corker has long argued that without his bill, there would have been no requirement that Congress receive full details of the deal, no review period for Congress to examine the agreement, and no way for the president to regularly certify whether or not Iran is complying with the terms.

“Our bill was the only way to guarantee a role for Congress,” he said last December. “While in the end there were not enough votes to stop the deal, it demonstrated a broad bipartisan majority opposed implementation.”

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