Politics

Don't Expect Controversial Obama Aide to Testify

Democrats expect GOP to hold Iran hearing with or without Ben Rhodes

President Barack Obama watches as actors perform Shakespeare's Hamlet at the Globe Theatre in London in April with White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, center, and Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images file photo)

Expect Ben Rhodes ’ chair in a House hearing room to be empty next Tuesday when a Republican-run committee examines the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran.  

Rhodes, President Barack Obama ’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, caused a ruckus in Washington when a New York Times Magazine article described him as crafting a faux narrative about the Iran deal. The piece describes Rhodes’ role as leading a messaging effort to describe the accord as a way to push Iranian moderates into power.  

“I mean, I’d prefer a sober, reasoned public debate, after which members of Congress reflect and take a vote,” Rhodes told the magazine. “But that’s impossible.”  

[After Rhodes Insults Media, White House Hands Out Donuts] Republicans quickly pounced, saying Rhodes misled the American people. Sensing an opportunity, House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz , R-Utah, scheduled a Tuesday hearing on “White House narratives on the Iran nuclear deal .”  

And he invited Rhodes, even suggesting through an aide that he might use his subpoena power.  

But sources say Rhodes will likely turn down the invitation.  

Democrats expect Chaffetz to go ahead with the hearing with or without the lightning rod that is Rhodes.  

“It would be ridiculous for Republicans to issue a subpoena after rushing this hearing just to get a couple of cheap headlines,” a Democratic committee aide said. “Our best guess at this point is that the Republicans will invite a bunch of conservative talking heads to read their talking points into the microphone, but there will be little substance.  

The White House did not directly comment on whether Rhodes would merely ignore any subpoena that might be coming his way.  

[White House Picks a Fight With No. 3 House Republican] But Eric Schultz , White House principal deputy press secretary, said in a statement that House Republicans are merely crying over spilled milk, having missed their chance to intercept the nuclear accord.  

"The Iran deal was debated and scrutinized for months last year,” Schultz said. “Republicans had vowed to block it, could not muster the votes to do so, and are now seeking to re-litigate that old political fight.”  

“With all the serious issues stuck in Congress right now — preparing for Zika 's arrival, helping Puerto Rico through their financial crisis, providing assistance to the people of Flint , or combatting the opioid epidemic — it is a shame that Chairman Chaffetz is choosing to take a page out of Darrell Issa's playbook to distract from all the work they should be doing," Schultz added.  

Contact Bennett at johnbennett@cqrollcall.com. Follow on Twitter @BennettJohnT. Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.