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Biden Iran policy under scrutiny amid top aide’s security clearance suspension

Republican senators and the powerful head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas., are leading the charge to secure answers about the Biden administration’s special envoy for Iran allegedly mishandling classified documents. 

President Biden’s special envoy for Iran, Robert Malley, has been stripped of his security clearance and placed on unpaid leave until an investigation is completed. 

McCaul sent a detailed information request letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week. 

The Texas Republican wrote that Malley’s suspension earlier this year raises “serious concerns both regarding Malley’s conduct and whether the State Department misled Congress and the American public.”

McCaul noted,While the suspension of Special Envoy Malley’s clearance is independently troubling, our concern is compounded by the State Department’s failure to respond to the Committee’s efforts to conduct oversight of its negotiations with and policy toward Iran. Since April 11, 2023, the Committee has repeatedly requested Special Envoy Malley’s testimony, which the Department has not fulfilled, despite Special Envoy Malley’s numerous press engagements dating back to May 30, 2023.”

Malley speaking during hearing

Robert Malley, the Biden administration special envoy for Iran, testifies during a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill May 25, 2022. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

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Malley declined to appear before the committee due to illness of a close family member, according to McCaul’s letter. However, “At no point did the Department indicate that Special Envoy Malley’s security clearance was suspended or under review, or that he was being investigated for potential misconduct,” wrote the congressman.

He added “The Department’s failure to inform Congress of this matter demonstrates at best a lack of candor, and at worst represents deliberate and potentially unlawful misinformation.”

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) arrives to a caucus meeting with House Republicans on Capitol Hill

Rep. Michael McCaul arrives to a caucus meeting with House Republicans on Capitol Hill, May 10, 2023. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

When asked about McCaul’s letter, a State Department spokesperson told Fox News Digital “We do not comment on congressional correspondence. Rob Malley is on leave and Abram Paley is serving as acting Special Envoy for Iran and leading the Department’s work in this area. We have nothing further to offer at this time.”

Biden split screen with Iran's supreme leader Ali Khamenei

Recent reports claim the U.S. is close to a deal with Iran that would free U.S. citizens held in Iran and also delay Iran’s nuclear program. (Probst/ullstein bild via Getty Images | Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images)

Malley confirmed that his clearance is being investigated, but said he was confident about a positive outcome.

“I have been informed that my security clearance is under review. I have not been provided any further information, but I expect the investigation to be resolved favorably and soon. In the meantime, I am on leave,” Malley told Fox News.

Sen. Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., issued a Twitter thread with questions about Malley’s alleged misconduct and when Biden and Blinken first had knowledge of the accusations against the special envoy.

Hagerty also asked, “Why did they allow Malley to continue in his diplomatic role while under investigation?”

The Tennessee senator further wrote, “Malley’s contacts with Hamas & other extremist groups raised concerns in the past. Knowing his background & views, why did @Potus and & @SecBlinken select Malley for this sensitive position in the first place?”

The U.S. government and the European Union designate Hamas, which rules over the Palestinian enclave the Gaza Strip, a foreign terrorist organization.

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Iran

A huge mural of Iran’s supreme leader on Motahari Street on March 8, 2020, in Tehran. (Kaveh Kazemi/Getty Images)

Last month, Hagerty submitted, along with over 30 senators, a bill to require a congressional vote on sanctions relief to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

United Against Nuclear Iran chairman, former Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, and its CEO, Ambassador Mark D. Wallace, said following the Malley suspension, “The status quo of allowing the executive branch to direct Iran policy on its own and in a partisan manner has been a slow-rolling disaster for nearly a decade. This can be a turning point if Congress asserts itself and exercises its authority on a bipartisan basis, and we urge both parties to recognize the gravity of the situation and act accordingly.”

Malley has been accused of granting wide-ranging concessions to Iran’s regime as part of a planned nuclear deal. The slated accord could provide as much as $17 billion in sanctions relief to Iran in exchange for temporary restrictions on its alleged nuclear weapons program.

Fox News Digital reported last week that the Biden administration denied that an interim deal with Tehran has been reached but that backdoor negotiations are still underway.

Malley has also long advocated normalizing relations with a number of state sponsors of terrorism. According to a 2006 Time magazine piece, he wrote, “Today the U.S. does not talk to Iran, Syria, Hamas, the elected Palestinian government or Hezbollah…. The result has been a policy with all the appeal of a moral principle and all the effectiveness of a tired harangue.”

The U.S. government classified the Lebanese movement Hezbollah as foreign terrorist organization. Iran’s chief strategic partner, Hezbollah has murdered hundreds of American military personnel.

Bill Hagerty

Sen. Bill Hagerty speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, Feb. 25, 2022. (Tristan Wheelock/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., tweeted, This situation with Malley makes it more important than ever for Congress to scrutinize & weigh in on the secret ‘deal’ he is putting together with Iran.”

Speaking at the National Council of Resistance in Iran’s conference in Paris on the weekend, former U.S. national security adviser John Bolton said of Malley, “I’ve searched my memory for a case in our history where a senior diplomatic official of the United States has found himself in that position. And I can’t think of a single case.”

Protest in Iran

Iranians protest the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after she was detained by the morality police, in Tehran, Iran, Oct. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Middle East Images)

The growing criticism of Malley could add momentum to the campaign launched by an Iranian American human rights activist, Masih Alinejad, to force the U.S. State Department to remove Malley as special envoy. Alinjed’s petition campaign has secured 136,475 signatures since it was started in October.

Alinejad and other anti-Iranian regime activists claim Malley “is misrepresenting the nature of the protests” against Iran’s regime and “pushing for negotiations with the Islamic Republic.” After Iran’s infamous morality police reportedly tortured and murdered the 22-year-old Masha Amini for not covering her hair properly with a hijab, mass protests gripped the country that started in September. 

The U.S.-based organization National Union for Democracy in Iran said in a statement that it “led the charge against Mr. Malley’s appointment from the beginning. So where the political will was lacking to take action against Mr. Malley’s indefensible policies, we hope a legal investigation and the rule of law will finally force action to be taken, if indefensible conduct is proven to have taken place.”

Fox News’ Andrea Vacchiano and Nick Kalman contributed to this report. 

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