Judicial Watch Sues State Department over John Kerry’s ‘Shadow Diplomacy’ to Prevent U.S. Withdrawal from Iran Nuclear Deal
APRIL 15, 2019
Seeks emails, texts, instant chats between Kerry and State Department officials and/or Kerry meetings with Iranian officials
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of State for records of communications between former Secretary of State John Kerry and State Department officials regarding “the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (also known as JCPOA or ‘Iran nuclear deal’) and/or meetings between Kerry and Iranian officials to discuss the JCPOA.” (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:19-cv-00777)).
On May 8, 2018, President Trump announced the United States withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, which had been negotiated by Kerry in 2015 on behalf of the Obama State Department. In the months preceding the U.S. withdrawal, Kerry reportedly had been on a “stealthy yet aggressive mission” of shadow diplomacy in an attempt to preserve the Iran nuclear deal. Kerry reportedly held meetings and spoke with major players, foreign and domestic, involved in the Iran nuclear agreement who opposed the U.S. withdrawal.
The Judicial Watch lawsuit was filed after the State Department failed to respond to a May 7, 2018, FOIA request seeking:
All records of communications, including but not limited to emails (whether on .gov or non-.gov email accounts), text message or instant chat, between former Secretary of State John Kerry and official of the State Department regarding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (also known as the JCPOA or “Iran nuclear deal”) and/or meetings between Kerry and Iranian officials to discuss the JCPOA.
During his personal campaign to salvage the Iran nuclear deal, Kerry is said to have met with Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif at the United Nations in New York in late April 2018, their second meeting in two months, to discuss ways of preventing the deal limiting Iran’s nuclear weapons program from falling apart. Current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo termed Kerry’s meeting with “the world’s largest state-sponsor of terror” “unseemly and unprecedented” and “beyond inappropriate.”
Kerry also met in April 2018 with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, separately had meetings with French President Emmanuel Macron, both in Paris and New York, and spoke on the phone with European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini. Additionally, Kerry was reported to have quietly lobbied members of Congress, including then-Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, and placed dozens of phone calls just before the U.S. withdrawal.
“John Kerry wasn’t elected president, so he should avoid colluding with Iran and other foreign government to undermine U.S. foreign policy,” said Judicial Watch President Fitton. “Our lawsuit is meant to discover not only what Kerry was up to but also to unearth who inside the Deep State Trump ‘resistance’ were coordinating with Kerry’s clandestine efforts to undermine the President Trump’s Iran policy.”
In another Iran-related FOIA lawsuit, on May 19, 2017, Judicial Watch filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State and U.S. Department of the Treasury (No.1:17-cv-00864)) against the State and Treasury Departments regarding the Obama administration’s January 2016 transfer of $400 million in foreign currency to Iran, a cash payment delivered the same weekend five American hostages were released. The Obama administration insisted at the time the cash payment was not ransom for the hostages, but several Republican lawmakers said it was too coincidental to be true. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) reportedly said, “Paying Iran behind our backs, incentivizing further kidnappings of Americans while providing funds for terrorism, is as ignorant as it is wrong.”
The State Department, just two weeks after an August 4 press conference in which President Barack Obama said the payment was not a “ransom,” confirmed that the U.S. handed over the cash only after Iran released the hostages. The $400 million was the first installment of a $1.7 billion cash settlement the Obama administration paid Iran to resolve an arms deal signed before the 1979 Iranian Revolution, which toppled the pro-U.S. regime in Tehran.
Few documents were produced to Judicial Watch in this case, and all were fully redacted.