Over the weekend, top Democrats went berserk over Senator Tom Cotton’s (R-AR) open letter to the Iranian regime warning them that President Obama’s executive agreement with them was not the final legal word. Obama said at the Gridiron Dinner, “You don’t diminish your office by taking a selfie. You do it by sending a poorly written letter to Iran. Really. That wasn’t a joke.” Secretary of State John Kerry said that Cotton’s letter was “unconstitutional” and that “they cannot change an executive agreement.” He continued by saying that the letter was “unprecedented, unprecedented. …It’s false information and directly calculated to interfere, and basically say, ‘Don’t negotiate with them, you’ve got to negotiate with 535 members of Congress.’”
Of course, it is not unprecedented for Congress to involve itself in foreign policy in precisely the way that Cotton and 46 other Republican senators did. And Barack Obama reportedly contacted Iran through back channels before his election to encourage them not to cut a deal with President George W. Bush; he’d be much more helpful to the mullahs after his inevitable election. But never mind facts. Republicans are “TRAITORS” for having the temerity to teach the Iranian government about the Constitution–because, as Professor John Yoo points out, Cotton and company were exactly right about the fact that executive agreements are not the final word on foreign policy:
"The Cotton letter is right, because if President Obama strikes a nuclear deal with Iran using only instrument (c), he is only committing to refrain from exercising his executive power– i.e., by not attacking Iran or by lifting sanctions under power delegated by Congress. Not only could the next president terminate the agreement; Obama himself could terminate the deal. … Under the Constitution’s Foreign Commerce Clause, only Congress has the authority to impose international economic sanctions. Obama’s executive agreement cannot prevent Congress from imposing mandatory, severe sanctions on Iran without the possibility of presidential waiver (my preferred solution for handling the Iranian nuclear crisis right now)."