President Joe Biden's nominee to lead the State Department's Middle East bureau refused to completely answer three Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, questions and has Cruz's team claiming the National Security Council official lied, Politico reported.
Cruz sent an email to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to delay the approval of Barbara Leaf to be assistant secretary of State for Near Eastern affairs. The report did not make clear the Cruz's team's assertion how Leaf had lied on her questionnaire.
Amid the request to hold on Leaf's nomination, Cruz told Politico he might consider delaying Senate action on any of Biden's nominees, including those he did not object to Tuesday.
"Going to the floor is a different question," Cruz told Politico.
Democrats are objecting to Cruz's objection, claiming it puts national security at risk.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., tweeted:
"Sen. Cruz's objection to Barbara Leaf has NOTHING to do with her qualifications. It's just more political grandstanding that leaves America vulnerable without a top diplomat in the Middle East."
Cruz had not objected to ambassadorships for former Sens. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Tom Udall, D-N.M., as well as Cindy McCain and Julianne Smith, Biden's nominees to represent the U.S. at NATO.
Cruz's team claims Leaf lied on her questionnaire when asked to detail "arrangements, deals, or agreements that are being contemplated by the Biden administration to reduce pressure on Iran."
Leaf responded, "There have been no such arrangements, deals, or agreements contemplated to reduce pressure on Iran."
"That testimony is false," an attachment to Cruz's email read, according to the report, citing two Reuters stories that outlined Biden administration steps in talks about lifting sanctions and returning to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), known as the Iran nuclear deal.
"Leaf wrote back responses running to almost a thousand words. She answered 0 of the questions," the letter continued. "We asked the State Dept. to have her take another run at the questions — the point was to get answers, not do gotchas. They didn't respond for a couple weeks, and then after Leaf was cleared, they sent us an email saying that if we wanted rewrites my boss should lift his Nord Stream 2-related holds."
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