Interview With Bob Schieffer of CBS Face the Nation

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
April 12, 2015

QUESTION: Good morning. Well, we begin with the Secretary of State John Kerry, who’s at the State Department this morning. Mr. Secretary, last week the Iranian supreme leader said no nuclear deal unless all sanctions are lifted; there will be no inspection of military sites. But according to the chairman of the Armed Services Committee John McCain, a longtime colleague of yours, he said that the ayatollah’s comments were not what you had been talking about, and here’s what he said in a radio talk show interview: “John Kerry must have known what was in it and yet chose to interpret it in another way. It’s probably in black and white that the ayatollah is probably right. John Kerry is delusional.”

And then last night the President shot back pretty hard at John McCain: “And when I hear some, like Senator McCain recently, suggest that our Secretary of State John Kerry, who served in the United States Senate, a Vietnam veteran who’s provided exemplary service to this nation, is somehow less trustworthy in the interpretation of what’s in a political agreement than the supreme leader of Iran, that’s an indication of the degree to which partisanship has crossed all boundaries.”

So there you have it, Mr. Secretary. What – do you agree with what the President said? Do you go that far?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Bob, I’m going to answer your question, but let me just begin by publicly congratulating you on 46 extraordinary years. And it’s a pleasure to be on with you and really an amazing career.

With respect to the question you just raised, I think the President has spoken very powerfully to Senator McCain’s comments and belief in the ayatollah’s interpretation. I’ll let the facts speak for themselves. Yesterday the Russians, who are not our usual ally, released a statement saying that what we have put out in terms of our information is both reliable and accurate. And I will be briefing the Congress in depth tomorrow with the House and Tuesday with the Senate, and I’ll lay out the facts. Everything I have laid out is a fact and I’ll stand by them.

In the end, it’s really the final agreement that will determine it. And I would remind you we had this same dueling narrative, discrepancy, spin – whatever you want to call it – with respect to the interim agreement, Bob. But in the end, the interim agreement came out exactly as we had described. And what’s important is Iran not only signed it but has lived up to it in every respect. Iran has proven that it will join into an agreement and then live by the agreement. And so that’s important as we come into the final two and a half months of negotiation.

It’s also important to note that we have two and a half more months to negotiate, so this is not finalized. This is an outline of parameters. And most people are very surprised by the depth and breadth and detail of these parameters, and it went well beyond what they expected. And I think people need to hold their fire and let us negotiate without interference and be able to complete the job over the course of the next two and a half months.

QUESTION: But do you think, Mr. Secretary, hearing the – Senator John McCain, I must say I was surprised by his comments. He went so strong here. Can you possibly get this through the Congress if a deal is reached if he’s talking that way already?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, again, the President spoke to Senator McCain’s comments, and I’m not going to say anything further about it. I’m focused on the facts. I’m focused on getting a good agreement. I think what we have thus far are the makings of a very good agreement. And the key is now: Can we shut off Iran’s four pathways to a bomb? I think we’ve laid out an outline that does that.

And what’s interesting is the scientific community, the expert community – joined, I might add, by Russia, China, Germany, France, Great Britain – their experts all agree with us. So this is not just the United States of America. This is a global mandate issued by the United Nations to be able to negotiate with Iran. They’re the ones who created the beginning of this, and the Congress assisted by passing sanctions, helping to bring Iran to the table. The whole purpose of the sanctions was to have a negotiation. Now we’re having that negotiation. And I think we’ve earned the right through what we’ve achieved in the interim agreement and what we have laid out in this parameter that has been set forth, we’ve earned the right to be able to try to complete this without interference and certainly without partisan politics.

QUESTION: Let me shift quickly. The President met with Raul Castro yesterday, says he will consider your recommendations on whether or not Cuba should be removed from the list of nations that sponsor terrorism. What did you suggest at all?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Bob, I’m going to allow the President the latitude which he deserves, obviously, to be able to make his decision based on the recommendation we made. And I never talk publicly about recommendations that I make to the President, particularly when he hasn’t made a decision. So he will make his decision in the next days as the interagency process works through what we have evaluated, and I’m confident we’ll go from there.

QUESTION: Let me ask you also, Hillary Clinton’s going to announce later today that she is going to run for President. The big controversy over the emails. Are you confident that she has turned over all of the emails that were relevant to her role as secretary of state?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, the State Department is currently in a process of review of those emails. It’ll take a matter of months. I think about a month has gone by, so a couple of more. But we will release all the emails that are appropriate based on classification. We’re obviously looking through them to determine that no classified information is inadvertently released. But those emails will be released at the appropriate moment.

And I’ve also asked the inspector general of the State Department to evaluate all of the methodology of the management of emails here in the department so that we get ahead of the curve and figure out if every procedure that were in place is appropriate. And as for myself, I deal with a address and all of my emails are being secured by the State Department.

QUESTION: All right. Well, Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for joining us.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thanks a lot, Bob. And again, congratulations.