WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and three other Senate Democrats had only halfheartedly criticized his decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.
“They don’t say it with their full throat; they don’t say it with heart,” Trump told the media at a Cabinet meeting. “Because they have one problem: They were totally against it. Like Chuck Schumer was totally against the deal. He voted against the deal.”
He added, “It’s like, oh, perhaps he changed his mind. But, by the way, the deal only got worse.”
Schumer, who did oppose the deal, ignored the taunt and stuck to the position he took soon after Trump won the presidential election: He opposes repealing the deal and thinks the president instead should work with U.S. allies to strengthen the pact so it cracks down on Iran’s other dangerous activities.
“I have not changed my mind on the greater Iran deal. I still believe it was deeply flawed,” Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement Wednesday.
“But there is a greater, more immediate threat to Israel and America we must presently heed: What the Iranian military is doing in Syria; Iran is arming Hezbollah with rockets, and Iran is building ballistic missiles,” Schumer said.
“Undoing this agreement makes it harder to deal with those immediate threats, rather than easier, because we need new sanctions aimed at those threats, which are not addressed in the original agreement,” he said. “We need our allies to impose these new sanctions. Sanctions won’t work if we are alone.”
In 2015, Schumer complained the Iran deal didn’t have strong enough inspection safeguards and that Iran could build a nuclear bomb when the deal ended in 10 years. But on Tuesday, he said those reservations didn’t justify Trump’s action because there are no reports that Iran has violated the agreement.
Schumer also said Tuesday that withdrawal hurts U.S. credibility as a reliable partner in deals, something that could come back to haunt negotiations on Korean denuclearization.
“I don’t know how the plan works by dividing our allies,” Schumer said. “I just don’t see a concrete plan emerging.”
Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who also opposed the deal, did not respond to requests for comment on Trump’s slap at them.
Cardin said Tuesday that Iran had not violated the agreement but that Trump did by withdrawing from it. He predicted Trump’s move would embolden Iran and endanger Israel, while prompting U.S. allies to act “more cautiously” in the effort to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.
Menendez said in a statement on Tuesday: “It is a grave mistake to walk away from this deal without a plan for ensuring that Iran does not restart its nuclear weapon program, without a strategy for countering Iran’s dangerous non-nuclear activities, and without our allies and partners.”