State Department Investigating Suspension of Biden’s Iran Envoy: Report

Robert Malley was the lead negotiator on the Iran nuclear deal and later returned to government as a special envoy for President Biden.

AP/Florian Schroetter, file
Robert Malley on June 20, 2021, at Vienna. AP/Florian Schroetter, file

The suspension of President Biden’s envoy to Iran, Robert Malley, is now being investigated by the State Department’s inspector general, according to a report from Semafor’s Jay Solomon. Mr. Malley has been a longtime negotiator for Democratic administrations on Middle East issues.

In a letter to Congress, the inspector general’s office says it is conducting a comprehensive review into his suspension more than six months after he was placed on unpaid leave. 

“The scope of the special review of the suspension of Robert Malley’s clearance will include the procedures the Department used in suspending the clearance as well as actions taken by the Department following the suspension,” writes the inspector general’s director of congressional and public affairs, Ryan Holden. “This will include whether the Department followed proper procedures in suspending his clearance, determining what access to information he could maintain, and deciding the status of his employment.” 

“The special review will also examine which officials were involved in these decisions and how the process compares to that used for other types of employees,” the letter continues. 

Mr. Malley was hired as special envoy for Iran in 2021 when Mr. Biden returned to the White House. His portfolio included managing backchannel relations with the Islamic Republic, and trying to restore some semblance of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — the so-called Iran nuclear deal — which he himself negotiated. 

He had his security clearance suspended in either April or May of 2023, but kept working at the State Department for a number of months on sensitive Iran-related issues. It wasn’t until CNN reported his security clearance suspension in June that the State Department suspended him from work without pay. 

The State Department claimed before the CNN report that Mr. Malley was partially stepping back from his work for personal reasons. The FBI also launched an investigation into Mr. Malley’s alleged mishandling of classified information. 

The secrecy surrounding Mr. Malley’s suspension and the allegations that preceded it have rankled congressional leaders. In October, Congressman Brian Mast introduced legislation that would force the State Department to alert Congress whenever senior diplomats — including envoys like Mr. Malley — lose their security clearances, no matter the reason. 

The Biden administration has so far refused to turn over information related to Mr. Malley’s suspension to members of Congress. One member of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Hagerty, in July called “for an independent investigation into whether State Dept officials complied with all appropriate laws & regulations [with] respect to the suspension of @USEnvoyIran’s access to classified info,” he tweeted. “The American people deserve answers.”

The New York Sun

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