Here is a quick pop quiz. What happens if we lie to the government? What happens if the government lies to us? Does it matter who does the lying?
Last year, the Obama administration negotiated an agreement with the government of Iran permitting Iran to obtain certain materials for the construction of nuclear facilities. It also permitted the release of tens of billions of dollars in Iranian assets that had been held in U.S. banks and that the courts had frozen, and it lifted trade sanctions. In exchange, certain inspections of Iranian nuclear facilities can occur under certain circumstances.
During the course of the negotiations, many critics made many allegations about whether the Obama administration was telling the truth to Congress and to the American people.
Was there a secret side deal? The administration said no. Were we really negotiating with moderates in the Iranian government, as opposed to the hard-liners depicted in the American media? The administration said yes. Can U.N. or U.S. inspectors examine Iranian nuclear facilities without notice and at any time? The administration said yes.
It appears that this deal is an executive agreement between President Barack Obama and whatever faction he believes is running the government of Iran. That means that it will expire if not renewed at noon on Jan. 20, 2017, when the president’s term ends.
It is not a treaty because it was not ratified by a two-thirds vote of the Senate, which the Constitution requires for treaties. Yet the Obama administration cut a deal with the Republican congressional leadership, unknown to the Constitution and unheard of in the modern era. That deal provided that the agreement would be valid unless two-thirds of those voting in both houses of Congress objected. They didn’t.
Then last week, the president’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, Ben Rhodes, who managed the negotiations with Iran, told The New York Times that he lied when he spoke to Congress and the press about the very issues critics were complaining about. He defended his lies as necessary to dull irrational congressional fears of the Iranian government.