Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) admitted Tuesday morning that he and several other Democrats did indeed hold a secret meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif during the Munich Security Conference last week, arguing that it would be dangerous NOT to meet clandestinely with Iranian officials.
The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway broke the story about the Dems’ rogue meeting with foreign adversaries in an exclusive on Monday.
When asked to respond to the report during a press conference in Ethiopia on Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed hope that the Democrats were supporting “America’s foreign policy and not their own.”
“I have seen that piece about some senators meeting with Foreign Minister Zarif,” Pompeo began.
This guy is designated by the United States of America. He’s the foreign minister for a country that shot down a commercial airliner and has yet to turn over the black boxes. This is the foreign minister of a country that killed an American on December 27. And it’s the foreign minister of a country who is the largest world sponsor of terror and the world’s largest sponsor of anti-Semitism… If they met, I don’t know what they said. I hope they were reinforcing America’s foreign policy and not their own.
Murphy defended the meeting in a post at Medium.com and on Twitter: “I met w the Iranian Foriegn(sic) Minister in Munich,” Murphy wrote on Twitter. “It’s dangerous not to talk to adversaries, esp amidst a cycle of escalation.”
2/ First, I urged him to control any Iranian proxies in Iraq who might attack U.S. forces and allies there.
Second, I pressed him to release American citizens being unlawfully detained in Iran.
Third, I pushed him to end the Houthi blockage of humanitarian aid in Yemen.
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) February 18, 2020
The meeting took place in Zarif’s hotel suite. Other Democrats attending the conference included Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), as well as former Secretary of State John Kerry, according to the Federalist.
Pompeo has blasted Kerry in the past for conducting what he called “unseemly and unprecedented” shadow diplomacy with Iran.
“What Secretary Kerry has done is unseemly and unprecedented. This is a former secretary of state engaged with the world’s largest state sponsor of terror and, according to him… he was talking to them, he was telling them to wait out this administration,” Pompeo said in Sept. of 2018 in response to a reporter’s request for comment regarding Kerry’s multiple meetings with Iranian officials since leaving office. “It’s inconsistent with what the foreign policy of the United States is as directed by this president, and it is beyond inappropriate.”
The Sec. of State went on to say at the time: “You can’t find precedent for this in U.S. history and Secretary Kerry ought not to engage in that kind of behavior. It’s inconsistent with what the foreign policy of the United States is as directed by this president, and it is beyond inappropriate.”
In his piece at Medium.com, Murphy described what he allegedly told the Iranian diplomat during the meeting.
The senator wrote that he asked Zarif if the reprisals for the Soleimani assassination were over, and stressed that any attacks by Iran on United States forces in Iraq would “be perceived as an unacceptable escalation.”
He said he also asked for the Iranian foreign minister’s help in Yemen, and raised the issue of American prisoners held in Iran.
Murphy explained that he decided to talk to Zarif “as a rank and file U.S. Senator” because President Trump was not engaging in what he views as appropriate diplomacy with the terrorist nation.
I don’t know whether my visit with Zarif will make a difference. I’m not the President or the Secretary of State — I’m just a rank and file U.S. Senator. I cannot conduct diplomacy on behalf of the whole of the U.S. government, and I don’t pretend to be in a position to do so. But if Trump isn’t going to talk to Iran, then someone should. And Congress is a co-equal branch of government, responsible along with the Executive for setting foreign policy. A lack of dialogue leaves nations guessing about their enemy’s intentions, and guessing wrong can lead to catastrophic mistakes.
Murphy made the same point about diplomacy on Twitter, using stronger language.
“I wish President Trump would see that value too,” he tweeted. “Because our current policy of blind, non-strategic escalation is just making Iran more powerful and menacing, and making America weaker and less secure.”
Foreign policy expert Jordan Schachtel of the Institute of World Politics saw the tweet as confirmation that Murphy was attempting to undermine the Trump Administration’s foreign policy with Iran.
Sen Murphy confirms @FDRLST scoop that he met with Islamic Republic of Iran's FM Zarif. He also confirms that he is currently attempting to undermine the Trump Administration's foreign policy vis-à-vis Iran.https://t.co/Yks41n9bFU
— Jordan Schachtel (@JordanSchachtel) February 18, 2020
Sen. Murphy's reckless & deliberate undermining of Trump FP serves to weaken our influence over the terrorist regime in Tehran. It sends an overt signal to Zarif that he should hold the line & take a more anti-US posture & wait till the appeasers (Democrats) get back in office.
— Jordan Schachtel (@JordanSchachtel) February 18, 2020
Murphy has a history of lambasting Republicans for doing much less.
In March of 2015, 47 GOP senators sent an an open letter to the Iranian regime warning them that any nuclear deal they cut with then-President Obama could expire the day he leaves office.
Murphy, a staunch defender of the agreement said the Republicans were “undermining the authority of the president.”
In 2017, Murphy also condemned former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn following anonymous leaks of a phone call between Flynn and Russian ambassador Sergey Kysylak surfaced.
“Any effort to undermine our nation’s foreign policy – even during a transition period – may be illegal and must be taken seriously,” Murphy said at the time.
It is worth pointing out that Murphy didn’t feel the need to write about the Democrats’ secret meeting with the Iranians until it was exposed by the Federalist and his office did not respond to the Federalist‘s or American Greatness‘ requests for comment.
It’s also worth noting that an official readout of the meeting has not been made available, only the “candid, behind-the-scenes summary” Murphy posted at Medium.
An earlier version of this post reported that Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), as well as former Secretary of State John Kerry also attended the meeting but that has not been verified. The other Democrats did attend the conference, according to the Federalist.