GOP senators could block Jack Lew from Israel ambassadorship over controversial past with Iran

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Some GOP senators are signaling they may oppose Biden-nominated Jack Lew from the ambassadorship to Israel due to his record on Iran relations during his time as secretary to the Treasury. 

Lew will appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday for a nomination hearing.

In 2018, a Senate report by the investigative subcommittee of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee found that Lew, during his tenure as secretary to the Treasury under the Obama administration, ‘granted a specific license that authorized a conversion of Iranian assets worth billions of U.S. dollars using the U.S. financial system.’  

The report found that the administration tried to convert $5.7 billion from U.S. banks to Iranian assets. It noted that the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control ‘encouraged two U.S. correspondent banks to convert the funds.’  

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told Fox News Digital on Monday evening that he will vote to oppose Lew during a confirmation vote, and that he will be leading an effort to persuade other GOP colleagues this week to block his confirmation.

‘I know my Democratic colleagues contend that we should confirm Jack Lew properly to show our support for Israel, but I would turn that around. We should defeat Jack Lew’s nomination to show that our nation has a new policy towards Iran.’ Cotton said.

‘Jack Lew, Biden’s nom to be USAMB to Israel, was key point man in negotiations & disinfo campaign for Obama’s dangerously flawed deal w Iran,’ Sen. Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., posted on X, formerly Twitter. ‘The consequences are felt today as Iran — flush w cash due to Biden’s push to revive the deal at any cost — has fueled carnage in Israel.’

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., also said on X: ‘We need to have an ambassador in Israel, but it has to be the right person.’ Rubio is on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Cotton previously told Fox News’ Shannon Bream on Sunday, ‘Absolutely not’ to confirming Lew.

‘Jack Lew is an Iran sympathizer who has no business being our ambassador. It’s bad for the United States,’ he said. ‘It’s bad for Israel to have an Iran sympathizer as our ambassador to that country. He helped Iran evade American sanctions, and he lied to Congress about it. He defended the Obama administration’s refusal to use our veto … in the final days of the Obama administration to protect Israel from anti-Semitic resolutions.’

In January 2016, President Obama announced a $400 million cash transfer to Iran, which was part of a larger installment of a $1.7 billion settlement for a longstanding disagreement over an arms deal with Iran. Lew faced scrutiny at the time for the transfer, which was signed before the 1979 Iranian Revolution, signifying the end of Iran’s historical monarchy.

Lew — a Democrat who also served in the Bill Clinton administration as special assistant to the president’s office — faced scrutiny for the transfer. The Wall Street Journal chronicled during that period that the payment was conducted using a combination of Swiss and other foreign currencies, then transported to Iran on unidentified cargo planes.

‘Right now, it is as critical as ever that we have a Senate-confirmed ambassador in Israel,’ Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement when the war broke out last week.

He added, ‘That is why I hope my colleagues will join me in promptly confirming Secretary Jacob J. Lew as the new U.S. Ambassador to Israel.

‘I look forward to working with my colleagues, both Republican and Democratic, in moving forward on such steps swiftly to demonstrate the longstanding bipartisan support for the U.S.-Israel partnership. And I look forward to supporting the administration in its efforts to do the same.’

Lawmakers have been critical of Iran over its involvement aiding Hamas in attacking Israel, claiming a $6 billion deal with the nation in exchange for five American prisoners last month was used to support the attack.

The deal allowed the transfer of Iran’s frozen assets held in a South Korean bank to accounts in Qatar.

The administration said the money can only be used for humanitarian purposes, and that the U.S. will have oversight as to how and when the funds are used. But it quickly drew skepticism about whether those funds could have been used to fund the surprise attack in Israel after a bombshell Wall Street Journal report said Hamas and Hezbollah helped Iran plan the attack.

Lew declined to comment when reached Monday night by Fox News Digital.

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