Although White House press secretary Josh Earnest conceded on Tuesday that he was "not steeped in the details" of the historical precedents often cited for the controversial letter from 47 Republican senators to Iran’s leadership, he nonetheless told Newsmax "it doesn’t matter how relevant those previous examples are" when it comes to Republican lawmakers' recent writing to the regime in Tehran.
At the regular briefing for White House reporters, Newsmax referred to the precedents that Republicans signers of the controversial letter have been noting.
The examples we cited were those of Rep. Hamilton Fish, R-N.Y., meeting with German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop in August 1939 to urge warmer U.S. relations with Germany, and 10 Democratic House members in 1984 signing a letter to Nicaragua’s Marxist strongman, Daniel Ortega, spelling out their disagreement with the Reagan administration’s policy toward Central America.
"I am not steeped in the details of those previous engagements that have been described by some as a precedent for the letter written by the 47 Republican senators," Earnest told us.
He quickly added that "it's telling that those who are scrambling to explain and defend their signatures on the letter have to go back decades — and in one case it sounds like eight decades — to try to find a precedent."
The president’s top spokesman said that "I think that might be an indication they might be a little defensive and I think that’s understandable, given the kind of bipartisan criticism they have received."
Earnest repeated that "I am not steeped in the details [of the precedents]." But, he said, "My point would be it doesn’t matter how relevant these previous examples are.
"What matters is there's a clear principle at stake, I do think it's true that anytime you have 47 senators from the same party that are writing a letter to one of the chief adversaries of the U.S., that’s probably not a good idea."
He concluded by charging that the senators writing the letter to the Iranian government and referring to the role they could play in undoing any nuclear agreement made with the United States by President Barack Obama "probably is doing more to served interests of [their] party than it is to serve the interests of the country."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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