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Security adviser: US intel believed Kerry's unauthorized talks with Iran undercut Trump

"The frustration we had is that it was basically acknowledged by everybody and nobody cared about it," said the former National Security Council chief of staff Keith Kellogg.

Updated: May 1, 2021 - 10:44am

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The intelligence community was aware of John Kerry's meetings and exchanges of information with Iran during the Trump administration, retired Army Lt. General Keith Kellogg, former chief of staff for the National Security Council under President Trump, said Friday.

Kerry, the U.S. special presidential envoy for climate and former secretary of state, has denied a recent report that he informed Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif that Israel targeted Iranian forces in Syria.

"Yeah, he did it all the time," said Kellogg, citing "the fact that he went over there, and the fact that he talked to Zarif to send a very, very strong countermessage to what we were trying to do out there."

Kellogg dismisses the defense that Kerry only shared information that was already public. "Well, you don't — even if it's public record, you never acknowledge classified operations," he said. "You don't. The press may get it, but you don't acknowledge it ... and now this is public record … you put it out there that that's what the Israelis were doing against the Iranians, that was all classified information. He would give it out to them and passes it on to them. And we read cables and we understand what's going on."

Kellogg explained how Kerry's unauthorized talks with Iran undercut Trump's diplomatic efforts.

"We talked about it in the Oval Office several times," he recalled. "It was not helpful what he was doing, because he was basically countering every message we were putting out there and trying to push them into some type of negotiation.

"I was in there many times when the president would reach out to people like Macron of France, he would reach out to Boris Johnson in U.K., and trying to get them to be an intermediary to talk to the Iranians to get us into some type of discussions. And we always had a pushback ... because we had people like Kerry out there talking to Zarif and others."

The Trump administration "knew what [Kerry] was doing," Kellogg said. "And the frustration we had is that it was basically acknowledged by everybody and nobody cared about it. I mean, if one of us had done that ..."

Michael Flynn was accused of the kind of actions now attributed to Kerry, and was a target of the Russian collusion investigation because of it, eventually being pardoned by President Trump.

The State Department declined a request for comment on the story.

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