House GOP demands testimony from White House
aide on Iran deal

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By Julian Hattem - 05/11/16 06:49 PM EDT

House Republicans are pressing top White House adviser Ben Rhodes to testify on Capitol Hill following controversial comments he made about the Obama administration’s marketing of the nuclear deal with Iran.

Republican leaders of the House Oversight Committee want Rhodes to testify next Tuesday morning during a hearing titled “White House narratives on the Iran nuclear deal,” committee spokeswoman M.J. Henshaw told The Hill.

Rhodes, whose full title is the deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, has yet to respond to the request, and no one else has so far been asked to appear, Henshaw added.However, Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) has threatened to use a subpoena to demand his presence, one aide said.

A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to an inquiry about Rhodes’s plans.

The hearing comes on short notice, just days after Rhodes’s comments in a New York Times Magazine story caused a stir across Washington.

GOP aides are “rushing” to make the arrangements, a Democratic staffer notified of the plans said.

In the profile of the 38-year-old former fiction writer, Rhodes is quoted as boasting about creating an “echo chamber” of experts and journalists
supportive of the deal.

He is depicted as crafting a false narrative that the nuclear deal — which set limits on Iran’s ability to build a nuclear bomb in exchange for lifting international sanctions — would empower the country’s moderates, at the expense of hardliners such as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. In
fact, the article asserts, the deal was part of a grander plan to reshape the U.S.’s role in the Middle East.

“I mean, I’d prefer a sober, reasoned public debate, after which members of Congress reflect and take a vote,” he is quoted as saying. “But that’s impossible.”

Republicans, who uniformly opposed the Iran deal last year, have aggressively criticized the White House over the remarks.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) accused the administration of having “essentially misled the American people.”

In response, the White House has been thrust onto the defensive.

In a post on Medium this weekend, Rhodes claimed that the White House’s “concerted effort” to sell the agreement was based upon “the facts of the deal.”

“It wasn’t ‘spin,’ it’s what we believed and continue to believe, and the hallmark of the entire campaign was to push out facts,” he wrote.

On Wednesday, White House aides bought doughnuts for the press corps, in what was seen as an effort to extend an olive branch.