These senators worked to undermine Obama’s 2015 Iran deal. Now they are cheering Trump.

They despised the verifiable nuclear deal with Iran, but are optimistic about Trump's vague agreement with North Korea.

Donald Trump at a press conference following his meeting with North Korea's Kim Jong-un
Donald Trump at a press conference following his meeting with North Korea's Kim Jong-un on Tuesday. CREDIT: Win McNamee/Getty Images

What a difference three years makes. In 2015, then-President Barack Obama, as part of a multi-nation agreement, got Iran to agree to suspend its nuclear program and to accept international inspections.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) pilloried the accord as “the best deal acceptable to Iran.”  He and 46 other outraged Republican senators responded by sending a letter to Iran’s government aimed at undermining the deal and worked assiduously to scrap it. One warned it might lead to nuclear war; others opined that,  “Instead of weakening this radical regime, a regime with American blood on its hand, this agreement would make Iran stronger. ”

Hours after Donald Trump agreed to end military exercises on the Korean Peninsula in exchange for a vague promise that North Korea will stop trying to make nuclear weapons, those same senators took the opposite view. Rather than criticize Trump for getting an unverifiable agreement with a brutal dictator, many of them came forward with statements of optimism and praise for the president.

They include:

McConnell: In a Tuesday senate floor speech, he praised the “historic first step.” While he noted that it was “the beginning of the arduous process,” he enthused, “I support the goals contained in the statement and I remain supportive of the administration’s mission.”


Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID): In a Fox News interview on Tuesday, Risch gushed, “If Barack Obama had accomplished what Donald Trump just accomplished, they’d be calling for the stonemasons to get out to Mount Rushmore and put off his head on Mount Rushmore. This is a historic occasion.”

Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD): Rounds tweeted on Tuesday: “Good news coming from Singapore. @POTUS has made early strides in making our world a safer place. A lot of work to do yet.”

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR): Cotton, who had spearheaded the 2015 letter to Iran, told radio host Hugh Hewitt on Tuesday that while he was not thrilled with Trump’s dealings with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, they were vital to America’s national security. “It’s not something that we should celebrate. It’s not a pretty sight. But it’s a necessary part of the job to try to protect Americans from a terrible threat.”

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH): In a Tuesday morning tweet, Portman said he has “long called for a direct dialogue between the U.S. & , and I have supported this summit with the goal of achieving a peaceful solution that includes North Korea giving up its nuclear weapons.” While he warned against possible North Korean stalling tactics, he added, “I am hopeful that the negotiations can achieve these goals.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)On NBC’s Today on Tuesday, Graham said that while much more work was necessary, “I’m cautiously optimistic. I’m very pleased with President Trump thus far.” Later, in a tweet, he said, “I told President @realDonaldTrump I’m pleased and proud of his leadership regarding the North Korean nuclear threat. To those who criticize him for meeting with Kim Jong Un, how do you expect this to end well if we don’t talk?”


Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL): Rubio predictably both endorsed and opposed Trump’s approach, tweeting that while he is “uncomfortable with suspending military exercises,” he believes international sanctions “will be easier to enforce & increase” if North Korea does not comply after “Trump bent over backwards to be conciliatory.”

Some other senators also praised Trump’s approach before the “deal” was announced.

Sen. Jon Ernst (R-IA)On a local radio station on Monday, Ernst said while the Singapore summit was “just a first step,” she was “excited about the opportunity.” 

Sen. David Perdue (R-GA): In a press statement on Monday, Perdue cheered that the “critical summit is happening because of President Trump’s leadership and unwavering resolve to make the world a safer place,” and added that “[t]he Trump Administration has my full confidence as they move forward in these key talks.”

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK): In a local TV interview aired on Monday, Sullivan called it a “big opportunity” and said there was “cautious optimism” as “clearly there has been progress.”

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK)In a Fox Business Network interview on Monday, Inhofe said, “I’m so convinced that good things are going to happen,” praising Trump for being the first person to ever get Kim Jong-un’s attention and for playing him “like a fiddle.”

This post has been updated to include additional comment.