April 19th, 2015
11:42 AM ET

Corker: Lynch vote coming in "the next 48 to 72 hours"

Today on CNN’s State of the Union, Jim Sciutto spoke to the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), about the Iran nuclear deal and the nomination of Loretta Lynch.

TEXT HIGHLIGHTS

Corker on the nomination of Loretta Lynch

SCIUTTO: Do you agree with the president that this is embarrassing it has taken so long to get this vote?
CORKER: Well, we have a couple things that are happening on the floor. And I think this is going to be resolved in the early part of this week. There is a human trafficking bill that passed almost unanimously out of committee. I would think every American would want to make sure that we are doing everything we can domestically to deal with human trafficking. It's a huge issue here in Tennessee, and I know it is in every other state across the country.  And so, over a detail, a found - a detail that was found after it passed out of committee, it has been held up. And so what has happened is that and Loretta Lynch are being held together. My sense is, over the next 48 to 72 hours, that is going to be resolved, and we will move on to this Iran issue. There's so many other things. Senator Alexander passed unanimously out of committee this week an education bill. We have trade promotion agreements that Orrin Hatch and Ron Wyden dealt with. So we have a number of things that I think are getting ready to hit the floor. This logjam that you are talking about over this nominee likely will be worked out in the beginning part of this week once the human trafficking piece is worked out with it.”

 

Corker on the Iran nuclear negotiations:

SCIUTTO:…Do you believe that the Obama administration wants this agreement more than Tehran and, because of that, it's giving up too much?

CORKER: So, look, Jim, there has been a concern all the way that Iran has kept its position and we have continued to move towards - towards it.  And I think that's why you saw the overwhelming vote this week in the Foreign Relations Committee. So, look, I am concerned about Arak, but I think we can deal with it. I am concerned about Fordow, but I think we can possibly deal with that. I am concerned about Natanz. I think we can deal with that. Even though, in every one of those cases, we said that those were going to be very different than they have ended up, per the verbal talking points - again, and we don't have anything in writing yet - what concerns all of us, I think, the most is the covert actions.  We have been told that the negotiators on behalf of Iran could pass a lie detector test that they never were past military dimensions. And what that means is, even the negotiators in Iran are unaware of the activities that Iran has been dealing with because most of that happens through the IRGC. It's a separate entity that has so much to do with the terrorist activities and the nuclear file.  So, we're concerned that if the negotiators don't even know on behalf of Iran all the things that Iran has been doing, how are we going to know? How are we going to have the ability to get in and on snap inspections get into the military facilities, make sure that covert operations are not under way. So, Jim, this is of significance, huge significance, the biggest geopolitical arrangement that possibly will be entered into. And, right now, the president has absolute free hand to implement, because Congress gave him that ability through national security waivers.  What Senator Cardin, myself, so many others on the committee, people like Lindsey Graham, John McCain, Kelly Ayotte off the committee have been pushing for, for some time is our ability on behalf of the American people to make sure that this is transparent, that we see it, that Iran is accountable, and that we have the ability to enforce this. I think this is a minimum that we ought to be doing. I am thankful that it looks like we are at least beginning in a very strong position to move it to the floor, and I hope it will become law.”

THIS IS A RUSH FDCH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE
SCIUTTO: Joining me now, the lawmakers who crafted that compromise bipartisan bill, Senate Foreign Committee Chairman Bob Corker the panel's top Democrat, Senator Ben Cardin.

Senator Corker, I would like to begin with you. And thanks very much for taking the time this Sunday morning.

In his press conference on Friday, the president, and we were listening very closely, at a minimum did not give an explicit commitment to that phased removal of sanctions on Iran. And this had been, to this point, a commitment from the president. He used the language "lessened," but wouldn't talk about it being phased in.

Is the president, in your view, capitulating to Iran on this issue?

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: Well, Jim, it's hard to know.

One of the things that people may not know is that four times over the course of the last since - 2010, Congress has put in sanctions. We put them in place. But, with that, we gave the president what is called a national security waiver.

And so, today, unilaterally, he has the ability to negotiate any deal that he wishes and go straight to the U.N. Security Council to have it implemented. What Senator Cardin, myself and so many others have said is that we want to understand, Jim, whether he just said is the way that it is or not.

So, before - before he is able to lift the sanctions that we put in place, we passed a piece of legislation out of the committee and hopefully across the floor and to the House, we passed a piece of legislation that allows us first to see all of those details, to stop the president from just lifting those sanctions without us having time to go through them to give us the opportunity...

(CROSSTALK)

SCIUTTO: Are you saying that you would stop him from lifting those sanctions if it was not phased in over time? And this is a key issue for our viewers...

CORKER: Yes.

SCIUTTO: ... because the issue here is, if they are not phased in, then in effect the U.S. loses its leverage with Iran to keep them honest on honoring the deal.

CORKER: Well, Jim, again, unless we have this piece of legislation that becomes law, there is no ability to do that. And there is no ability even for Congress to understand what the real arrangement is.

As you know, at present, right now, the leadership in Iran is telling their citizens one thing. Our president and others are telling us another. The only way we will ever know what are the details, understand what is in the classified annexes is for us to pass these pieces of legislation that are before us, because, otherwise, we may never know until way after the fact exactly what the agreement is.

So, look, I think it's very important, yes, that the phased - the sanctions be phased, so that we see how Iran is behaving, and whether they are actually living up to the arrangement, that we are building up trust. But, no, to alleviate those on the front end obviously just gives them immediately more money to conduct terrorist acts throughout the Middle East and to continue the hegemony that they have been involved in for the last several years.

SCIUTTO: So, let me ask you this. Your compromise bill passed committee 19-0. Our reporting is that it has a veto-proof majority in the broader Senate. So, assuming that becomes a reality and it passes and you then have this oversight, without a firm commitment to, one, a phased relief of sanctions, but also the other remaining issue here is access to the sensitive nuclear sites there, military sites such as Parchin, as well as fessing up, in effect, to past weaponization work, past military work on a nuclear weapons program.

Without those commitments in a final deal, will the Senate reject the final nuclear agreement?

CORKER: Well, again, Jim, we will see.

CORKER: This first piece that Senator Cardin and I are working on at least gives the Senate and the House of Representatives an ability to have a say, to see the deal in advance, to pause the sanctions lifting until we have the opportunity to do that, and to make sure that, if there is a deal, it's complied with.

So, that's what is before us now. The actual content of an agreement will come before us later. And we will have the opportunity to discern these things that you are asking about right now, all of those things. I mean, one of the biggest concerns that people have is that Iran - Iran today has the ability through covert action to do anything that they wish.

And there's lots of questions right now, when you start teasing out the details from Secretary Kerry and others. What are our abilities to - on an instant, to get into these facilities, to know what is happening? Are we going to go back to exactly what happened under Saddam Hussein, where they kept moving the ball, where, for months and months and months, we didn't have the ability to get in.

And we are very concerned that may be where we are going, not to speak of the immediate sanctions relief that you just mentioned. But none of this will matter until we pass this piece of legislation that actually allows us to know.

Again, the public will never see, never see the classified annexes. And I think, on their behalf, they want someone, they want Senator Cardin, myself, our colleagues, the 98 others who will have the opportunity to do this, to actually see those details prior to the sanctions being relieved, to be able to debate those, and certainly to be able to make sure that they comply. So, look, the first step is a process that puts Congress back in place. And, again, Congress has given that away already. Four times since 2010, we have given the president the unilateral ability to put in this place through the U.N. Security Council. And now we are saying, these details are important. These details concern us. These details could destabilize the Middle East, could threaten Americans.

And so now we are saying we want to reinsert ourselves back into this process. And without this legislation that Senator Cardin, myself, Senator Menendez, Senator Kaine, so many members on our committee have put in place, without this legislation, we will never have that opportunity.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you about this big picture. You have been involved in this from the beginning. I have been reporting on the negotiations for the last two years.

Big picture issues beyond the details, in 2012, during his campaign, President Obama said his demand would be that Iran end its nuclear program. In the current agreement, they keep all their nuclear sites. They're modified, but they keep all the sites, even sites that were secretly manufactured to avoid Western knowledge of those sites.

Those are all going to remain, no matter how these final details are worked out in the next couple of months. Do you believe that the Obama administration wants this agreement more than Tehran and, because of that, it's giving up too much?

CORKER: So, look, Jim, there has been a concern all the way that Iran has kept its position and we have continued to move towards - towards it.

And I think that's why you saw the overwhelming vote this week in the Foreign Relations Committee. So, look, I am concerned about Arak, but I think we can deal with it. I am concerned about Fordow, but I think we can possibly deal with that. I am concerned about Natanz. I think we can deal with that.

Even though, in every one of those cases, we said that those were going to be very different than they have ended up, per the verbal talking points - again, and we don't have anything in writing yet - what concerns all of us, I think, the most is the covert actions.

We have been told that the negotiators on behalf of Iran could pass a lie detector test that they never were past military dimensions. And what that means is, even the negotiators in Iran are unaware of the activities that Iran has been dealing with because most of that happens through the IRGC. It's a separate entity that has so much to do with the terrorist activities and the nuclear file.

So, we're concerned that if the negotiators don't even know on behalf of Iran all the things that Iran has been doing, how are we going to know? How are we going to have the ability to get in and on snap inspections get into the military facilities, make sure that covert operations are not under way. So, Jim, this is of significance, huge significance, the biggest geopolitical arrangement that possibly will be entered into. And, right now, the president has absolute free hand to implement, because Congress gave him that ability through national security waivers.

What Senator Cardin, myself, so many others on the committee, people like Lindsey Graham, John McCain, Kelly Ayotte off the committee have been pushing for, for some time is our ability on behalf of the American people to make sure that this is transparent, that we see it, that Iran is accountable, and that we have the ability to enforce this.

I think this is a minimum that we ought to be doing. I am thankful that it looks like we are at least beginning in a very strong position to move it to the floor, and I hope it will become law.

[09:10:00]

SCIUTTO: Senator Corker, I want to turn to domestic politics.

The president on Friday was his most - most forthright, you might even say angry, when discussing the continuing delays in approving the nomination of Loretta Lynch, his nomination for attorney general.

I just want to pray a brief - brief clip of the president's sound on Friday. Have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's gone too far. Enough. Call Loretta Lynch for a vote. Get her confirmed. Put her in place. Let her do her job. This is embarrassing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: We have seen its Senate at its most bipartisan this week with regards to the Iran bill. In your view, is the president right? Is this embarrassing?

CORKER: You - and I am having difficulty hearing you. You talking about Loretta Lynch?

SCIUTTO: Talking about Loretta Lynch.

CORKER: Is that what you just asked?

SCIUTTO: We were quoting the president, who called it embarrassing.

CORKER: Yes.

SCIUTTO: He's demanding that Congress put her to a vote.

CORKER: Yes.

SCIUTTO: What I was going to say is that we have seen the Senate as its most bipartisan on the Iran bill.

CORKER: Yes.

SCIUTTO: This is arguably the worst of Washington partisanship.

Do you agree with the president that this is embarrassing it has taken so long to get this vote?

CORKER: Well, we have a couple things that are happening on the floor. And I think this is going to be resolved in the early part of this week.

There is a human trafficking bill that passed almost unanimously out of committee. I would think every American would want to make sure that we are doing everything we can domestically to deal with human trafficking. It's a huge issue here in Tennessee, and I know it is in every other state across the country.

And so, over a detail, a found - a detail that was found after it passed out of committee, it has been held up. And so what has happened is that and Loretta Lynch are being held together. My sense is, over the next 48 to 72 hours, that is going to be resolved, and we will move on to this Iran issue.

There's so many other things. Senator Alexander passed unanimously out of committee this week an education bill. We have trade promotion agreements that Orrin Hatch and Ron Wyden dealt with. So we have a number of things that I think are getting ready to hit the floor.

This logjam that you are talking about over this nominee likely will be worked out in the beginning part of this week once the human trafficking piece is worked out with it.

SCIUTTO: Senator Bob Corker, thanks very much for joining us this Sunday.

CORKER: Thank you.

END


Topics: Iran • Jim Sciutto • State of the Union
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