Congress demands info on security clearance suspension of Iran envoy

FILE - Robert Malley, U.S. Special Envoy for Iran, is shown on June 20, 2021, in Vienna, Austria. The Biden administration’s special envoy for Iran has stepped aside from his duties pending a review of his security clearance by U.S. authorities. Malley has led administration efforts to revive the faltering Iran nuclear deal and resolve issues related to detained Americans in Iran, but has not been active in his job for weeks. (AP Photo/Florian Schroetter, File)
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By MATTHEW LEE

AP Diplomatic Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee is demanding that the State Department produce more information about the suspension of the U.S. special envoy for Iran’s security clearance.

Rep. Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican, said Friday the Biden administration owed Congress a full explanation for the suspension of envoy Rob Malley’s clearance and his being placed on unpaid leave.

Malley had led administration efforts to revive the faltering Iran nuclear deal. But he has not been active in his main job for weeks and until Thursday the State Department had told journalists and lawmakers that he was on extended personal leave for unspecified family reasons.

On Thursday, however, department officials said Malley was the subject of an investigation into the mishandling of classified information and had been placed on unpaid leave.

“These reports raise serious concerns both regarding Malley’s conduct and whether the State Department misled Congress and the American public,” McCaul said in a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“While the suspension of Special Envoy Malley’s clearance is independently troubling, our concern is compounded by the State Department’s failure to respond to the committee’s efforts to conduct oversight of its negotiations with and policy toward Iran,” he said.

McCaul also noted that the initial explanation for Malley’s absence from the job, and his failure to appear at congressional hearings on Iran policy, turned out to be incorrect.

“Senior State Department officials informed the committee that Special Envoy Malley was unable to testify or brief because he was on personal leave due to the illness of a close family member, for which my staff expressed sympathy,” McCaul said.

“At no point did the department indicate that Special Envoy Malley’s security clearance was suspended or under review, or that he was being investigated for potential misconduct,” he added.

The State Department had no immediate comment on McCaul’s letter.

Malley said Thursday in a brief statement provided to several news outlets that he had been informed that his security clearance was under review.

“I have not been provided any further information, but I expect the investigation to be resolved favorably and soon. In the meantime, I am on leave,” he said in that statement.

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Thursday that Malley officially remains in his post but is on leave and that his deputy, Abram Paley, is currently leading the Iran portfolio as the acting special envoy.

Malley’s whereabouts have raised questions since he skipped a classified congressional briefing on Iran on May 16.