A stunning exchange took place between reporter James Rosen of Fox News and State Department spox Jen Psaki many months ago, in which she admitted what is now a very hot topic thanks to Ben Rhodes: that the administration lied about the Iran deal. But if you get you saw the video put out by State, that exchange never took place. They cut it. They covered up the cover up.
To put it another way: the administration lied about the Iran deal, covered it up, was challenged about and admitted to covering it up, and then hid the challenge as well.
Here is Rosen’s report:
late today we discovered that the State Department’s of it’s December 2, 2013 press briefing, at which I confronted spokesperson Jen Psaki about the false statement made by her predecessor Victoria Nuland, the one you saw in my story tonight, has itself, with the use of a white flash, been deleted from both the State Department’s official website and its YouTube channel. In that exchange, Psaki effectively admitted the administration lied to me because the diplomacy needed quote privacy. The State Dept. told me just moments ago that it cannot explain this deletion and is working to restore the excised material.
Via Mediaite, here is a transcript of the original exchange with Victoria Nuland.
ROSEN: There have been reports that intermittently, and outside of the formal P5+1 mechanisms, the Obama Administration, or members of it, have conducted direct secret bilateral talks with Iran. Is that true or false?”
NULAND: We have made clear, as the Vice President did at Munich, that in the context of the larger P5+1 framework, we would be prepared to talk to Iran bilaterally. But with regard to the kind of thing that you’re talking about on a government-to-government level, no.
Of course, as has been all over the news the last few days, that’s not true. Ben Rhodes confirmed to the New York Times that those conversations were taking place, and that they lied about it. Rhodes’ account was full of contempt for the press and a sort of braggadocio about deceiving them. He was not unclear on the point that those conversations took place, and that he “created” a “narrative” that they did not. (Translation: A lie.)
Back in 2013, James Rosen confronted Jen Psaki regarding his previous exchange with Nuland. Here is that:
QUESTION: On the 6th of February in this room, I had a very brief exchange with your predecessor, Victoria Nuland —
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — about Iran. And with your indulgence, I will read it in its entirety for the purpose of the record and so you can respond to it.
“Rosen: There have been reports that intermittently, and outside of the formal P5+1 mechanisms, the Obama Administration, or members of it, have conducted direct secret bilateral talks with Iran. Is that true or false?”
“Nuland: We have made clear, as the Vice President did at Munich, that in the context of the larger P5+1 framework, we would be prepared to talk to Iran bilaterally. But with regard to the kind of thing that you’re talking about on a government-to-government level, no.”
That’s the entirety of the exchange.
As we now know, senior state department officials had, in fact, been conducting direct, secret bilateral talks with senior officials of the Iranian Government in Oman, perhaps dating back to 2011 by that point.
So the question today is a simple one: When the briefer was asked about those talks and flatly denied them from the podium, that was untrue, correct?
MS. PSAKI: I mean, James, I – that – you’re talking about a February briefing, so 10 months ago. I don’t think we’ve outlined or confirmed contacts or specifics beyond a March meeting. I’m not going to confirm others beyond that at this point. So I don’t know that I have any more for you.
QUESTION: Do you stand by the accuracy of what Ms. Nuland told me, that there had been no government-to-government contacts, no secret direct bilateral talks with Iran as of the date of that briefing, February 6th? Do you stand by the accuracy of that?
MS. PSAKI: James, I have no new information for you today on the timing of when there were any discussions with any Iranian officials.
QUESTION: Let me try it one last way, Jen —
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: — and I appreciate your indulgence.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Is it the policy of the State Department, where the preservation or the secrecy of secret negotiations is concerned, to lie in order to achieve that goal?
MS. PSAKI: James, I think there are times where diplomacy needs privacy in order to progress. This is a good example of that. Obviously, we have made clear and laid out a number of details in recent weeks about discussions and about a bilateral channel that fed into the P5+1 negotiations, and we’ve answered questions on it, we’ve confirmed details. We’re happy to continue to do that, but clearly, this was an important component leading up to the agreement that was reached a week ago.
QUESTION: Since you, standing at that podium last week, did confirm that there were such talks, at least as far back as March of this year, I don’t see what would prohibit you from addressing directly this question: Were there secret direct bilateral talks between the United States and Iranian officials in 2011?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more for you today. We’ve long had ways to speak with the Iranians through a range of channels, some of which you talked – you mentioned, but I don’t have any other specifics for you today.
That is an admission. “I think there are times where diplomacy needs privacy in order to progress. This is a good example of that.”
But now the video of that exchange has been deleted. Overnight, since the time of Rosen’s report, the video available at the State Department website has been restored, the white flash gone and Rosen’s exchange put back. The white flash remains in the YouTube version. Here is how it appeared at both sites until Rosen’s report last night.