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House Republicans are asking a White House aide to testify

Jason Chaffetz, chair of the House Oversight Committee, invited deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes

Washington CNN —  

House Republicans are asking a White House aide thrust into controversy to testify after he suggested the Obama administration misrepresented the Iran deal to sell it to the public.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chair of the House Oversight Committee, invited deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes on Wednesday to testify at a hearing on the Iran deal, committee spokeswoman MJ Henshaw said. Rhodes was asked to appear at a hearing May 17 at 10 a.m.

The request, first reported by The Hill newspaper, comes after a lengthy New York Times Magazine story about Rhodes included several details and comments from him about how the White House marketed the nuclear deal with Iran, including by creating an “echo chamber” with help from Obama allies.

A White House spokesman, Eric Schultz, responded to Chaffetz’ call by portraying it as an attempt to rehash the merits of the historic agreement.

“The Iran deal was debated and scrutinized for months last year. Republicans had vowed to block it, could not muster the votes to do so, and are now seeking to relitigate that old political fight,” Schultz said Wednesday. “The facts and substance of the Iran deal are not in question – it has done exactly what we said it would, and the world is a safer place for it.”

Schultz’s statement did not specify whether Rhodes would testify next week.

On Thursday, Schultz’ colleague went a step farther, sarcastically deriding Chaffetz for convening the hearing at all.

“With all due respect to the chairman,” press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters, “if he has an interest in a hearing about false narratives as they relate to the Iran deal, then I’ve got suggestions for people they should swear in.”

Earnest then called out several members of the committee by name, along with other members of Congress, for making critical statements about the Iran deal which the White House insists are false.

The top Democrat on the committee called Chaffetz’s invitation “a partisan rush to attack Ben Rhodes just to chase cheap headlines rather than a substantive review of foreign policy objectives.”

“There is absolutely no reason in this case for Republicans to break from normal notice rules and then threaten the White House with subpoenas,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings. “Reducing our work to reactionary grandstanding like this makes our committee look terrible.”

Laura Rozen, one of the journalists named in the article as having been used by the administration to promote the deal, told CNN Thursday that The New York Times Magazine misrepresented what was said about her.

She also criticized the magazine’s editors, whom she charged “utterly failed to follow the minimal standards of journalism.”

In the profile, author David Samuels writes that “handpicked Beltway insiders like Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic and Laura Rozen of Al-Monitor helped retail the administration’s narrative.”

Rozen, a diplomatic correspondent for Al-Monitor who covered the talks extensively both in Washington and abroad, defended her reporting.

“Samuels attacked two journalists who were the most aggressive on trying to report on Obama’s foreign policy – me specifically on the Iran deal diplomacy,” said Rozen. “I was very aggressively stalking this story, speaking to sources and diplomats, certainly not exclusively from the U.S. government.”

In a series of tweets, the editor-in-chief of The New York Times magazine, Jake Silverstein, strongly defended the story, saying that it was thoroughly fact-checked and reviewed and that the Times was standing behind it “100%.”

CNN’s Deirdre Walsh and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.