Sen. Ayotte on controversy surrounding GOP letter to Iran

New Hampshire lawmaker weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Your World," March 13, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Signed, sealed and for the 47 Republican senators who wrote Iran's regime, concerns they got the wrong message delivered? Hard to say.

This much is not. One of the guy who signed it seems to have having some doubts, not about the contents of that letter, but to whom it was addressed. Wisconsin Republican Ron Johnson reportedly telling Bloomberg reporters and editors at a breakfast this morning that it might have been easier if Republicans hadn't sent it to Iran's leaders -- I'm paraphrasing here -- but that he stands by the message that Congress must and will have a role in any deal -- quoting here -- "that rises to the level of a treaty."

To New Hampshire Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte, who also signed that letter, on what she makes of what her colleague is saying.

Senator, good to have you.

What do you think about what Senator Johnson is saying?

SEN. KELLY AYOTTE, R-N.H.: Good to be with you, Neil.

I think what you hear Senator Johnson saying -- and I have lot of respect for him -- is that the letter and what was in it was very important. Let me put this into perspective, Neil.

This letter was written on the heels of the president of the United States threatening to veto bipartisan legislation, the Corker-Menendez bill, which I'm an original sponsor of, that says very simply we want a say on this incredibly important agreement.

And you have to bear in mind it was Congress, on an overwhelming bipartisan basis, that put the toughest financial and energy sectors on Iran to bring them to the table. And this is an incredibly important issue for the American people that we should have a say in, given the security of our country. It's the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world.


CAVUTO: No, I certainly see where you're coming from, Senator.

But do you think you, with the right intentions, at least, played into some of the nuts' hands over there? You know what I mean?

AYOTTE: Neil, look at what they have done since we have been negotiating this deal.

They have helped overthrow the government in Yemen. They're supporting the murderous Assad regime. They're supporting groups like Hezbollah that terrorize Israel. And they're the largest state sponsor of terrorism. They -- they really have not diminished any of what they're doing.

They're developing an ICBM. So I guess my question is, who are these so- called moderates that people are talking about? We need to understand who we're dealing with.

And let's think about the letter. It's interesting to be criticized about a letter that quotes the United States Constitution. I think that, in some ways, there's been a lot made about this letter to try to distract from the underlying issue, which the administration does not want Congress to have a say on something so important when it comes to security of the United States of America.

And that strikes me as not right within our system, and certainly not what I would hope my constituents would want to us have a say on it, given that, if they -- there's a weak agreement, this is something that has grave implications and they're allowed to get a nuclear bomb.

CAVUTO: You know, know, Senator, Mitt Romney, in a USA Today interview, had said that he thinks the president will cobble together some sort of a deal with Iran -- I'm paraphrasing here -- but that will be a bad deal, but that he will get good play from it and it will help Hillary Clinton, assuming she is the nominee, because I guess, by extension, he is saying the mainstream media would just play it as a big victory for the administration.

What do you think of that?

AYOTTE: What I think is that a good deal is a blessing, a bad deal is a nightmare.

And what we have heard about the deal, let's think about it. They're going to be allowed a breakout period of a year. They're allowed to keep their - - basically, the centrifuges, thousands of them. They're not -- not -- don't seem, from what I have heard publicly about the deal, that they are going to have to dismantle their nuclear program.

And what we have heard from the Sunni Arab nations is they're going to want the same. So it's going to result in more proliferation. So, if she wants to claim this as an accomplishment, I don't think that will be an accomplishment.

Now, if we can have an agreement that dismantles their program, that requires them to give up the enriched uranium, their plutonium reactor, tell us about their weaponization and what they're doing, and also, by the way, give up their terrorism, then that's a real agreement and it's verifiable and we can get inspectors in there.

But if it's something short of that, I don't know why you would say that that is an accomplishment. And I think, if that is where we are, we need to impose the sanctions, tougher economic sanctions, and bring it -- bring it back to negotiations for a real strong deal. We know that the sanctions are hitting Iran, especially with oil prices where they are today.

CAVUTO: All right.

You know, Senator, I didn't want to jump on you there, but I caught this exchange with you and General John Kelly over the treatment of some of these detainees and their anger at having female guards watching them. I hope we have this tape, if we could take a peek at this.


AYOTTE: Give us a sense of some of these high-level detainees who brought this action to prevent women guards, who, by the way, we're very proud of, are doing great work.


GEN. JOHN KELLY, COMMANDER, U.S. SOUTHERN COMMAND: Certainly, the 9/11 five...

AYOTTE: So the 9/11 five want to tell us that our women, the women who serve our country can't guard them?

KELLY: That's exactly right. And then the Cole bomber.

AYOTTE: And the Cole bomber.

KELLY: And the Cole bomber.

It's beyond me why we even consider some of these requests. But I'm not a lawyer. I'm not smart enough to figure this out.


CAVUTO: We're not going to honor these requests, are we?

AYOTTE: Here's the problem, Neil, that they have already been entertained in two court orders.

So there's one pending right now, and that these -- the lawyers of the 9/11 attackers, of the 9/11, the five that are there, including the mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and the USS Cole bomber, telling our women in military who are trained to do this that they can't guard them because of the Muslim religion.

It's really -- it's really ridiculous. And General Kelly, rightly so, pointed out that that is not part of that religion, and that they -- the fact that we're letting terrorists -- we're even having to entertain these requests from terrorists about who and who can't guard them is absurd, and incredibly -- talk about taking it to the most absurd level of these people who are terrorists.


AYOTTE: I don't know why we're entertaining this. But I was so offended by this. And General Kelly, you can tell, is offended by it as well.

CAVUTO: Yes. I got a sense you were both a little offended by it.


AYOTTE: Yes. No, absolutely.


CAVUTO: Senator, thank you very much. That's bizarre.


AYOTTE: Thanks, Neil.

CAVUTO: All right. You be well.

AYOTTE: It is bizarre.

Thank you. You, too.

CAVUTO: Senator Kelly Ayotte, all right.

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