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President Donald Trump escalated a war of words with Sen. Bob Corker by blaming the Tennessee Republican for the Iran nuclear deal Trump has long derided.
The dustup between Trump and Corker, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, comes as Trump weighs sending a formal criticism of the deal to Congress.
Under the accord, Iran agreed to scale back its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. The deal was signed in 2015 by the United States, Iran and other world powers — and according to Trump, Corker played an outsized role in its creation, too.
Bob Corker gave us the Iran Deal, & that's about it. We need HealthCare, we need Tax Cuts/Reform, we need people that can get the job done!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 8, 2017
We decided to take a closer look at Corker’s role in the brokering the agreement.
Trump’s claim is contradicted by the fact Corker vocally opposed the deal that would eventually emerge from negotiations with Iran in July 2015, and urged Republican colleagues to oppose it, too.
The deal "leaves the United States vulnerable to a resurgent Iran wealthier and more able to work its will in the Middle East," Corker wrote in an August 2015 opinion piece in the Washington Post. "Congress should reject this deal and send it back to the president."
Corker himself voted against the deal, though Republicans ultimately lacked the votes to reject it.
When asked how Trump could say that Corker was responsible for the deal, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said a bill Corker sponsored paved the way for the Iran deal and gave it credibility.
"Sen. Corker worked with (Democratic House Leader) 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 in an Oct. 10 press briefing, adding, "He not only allowed the deal to happen, he gave it credibility."
The legislation Sanders was referring to is the Corker-sponsored Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act. After initial resistance from President Barack Obama, the bill passed with overwhelming majorities in both chambers, and was signed into law in May 2015.
Corker’s office described the law as enhancing Congress’ authority to review any nuclear agreement with Iran before allowing a president to lift congressionally-imposed sanctions.
So if Corker’s law aimed to give Congress more say over the agreement, what to make of the Trump administration’s assertion that it paved the way for the deal?
"This is astonishingly wrong," said Richard Nephew, a senior research scholar on global energy policy at Columbia University, who previously served as the lead sanctions expert for the U.S. team negotiating with Iran during the administration of President Barack Obama. "The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act gave Congress the most direct way of killing the deal, quickly and easily."
Kelsey Davenport, the director for nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association, also said the Trump administration was way off the mark.
"It is ludicrous to argue that Senator Corker and Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act are responsible for delivering the nuclear deal with Iran," she said. "If anything, (the law) nearly prevented the deal's implementation and undermined the agreement."
The Trump-Corker feud comes at a time when the Iran deal faces intense scrutiny.
By law, the Trump administration must report to Congress on the deal every 90 days, including whether Iran is complying, and if it’s in the U.S. national security interest to continue sanctions relief.
The next deadline is Oct. 15, and experts say Trump may decline to certify the deal on national security grounds. Decertifying the deal would not immediately kill it. Rather, it opens the door for Congress to quickly reimpose sanctions.
Trump said, "Bob Corker gave us the Iran Deal."
Corker sponsored legislation to enhance Congress’ authority to review the Iran nuclear deal before allowing the president to lift congressionally-imposed sanctions. He also vocally opposed the deal, urged lawmakers to reject the agreement and voted against it.
We don’t see how this could reasonably be construed as Corker giving the United States the Iran deal. Trump’s claim doesn’t make logical sense.
We rate this False.
Tweet by President Donald Trump, Oct. 8, 2017
Tweet by Sen. Bob Corker, Oct. 8, 2017
Press briefing by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Oct. 10, 2017
Sen. Bob Corker press release, "Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015," May 22, 2015
Sen. Bob Corker in the Washington Post, "Congress Should Reject Iran Nuclear Deal, Send It Back to the President," Aug. 17, 2015
Email interview with Richard Nephew, senior research scholar on global energy policy at Columbia University, Oct. 12, 2017
Email interview with Kelsey Davenport, the director for nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association, Oct. 12, 2017
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