The FBI is reportedly investigating President Joe Biden's special envoy to Iran, Rob Malley, over suspected mishandling of classified material.
The probe has been widening since news first broke last month that Malley was suspended over allegations of mishandling confidential documentation. Now, the FBI has reportedly taken over the investigation, a development that suggests grounds for more than a simple protocol breach.
The Biden administration has come under fire for Malley's appointment in light of his historically soft stance on Iran. In late 2020, Malley was criticized for softening his condemnation of the country's violent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, tweeting instead that he stood with "marchers in Washington and in cities around the world." He later apologized for his response.
Not only is the probe a damning indictment against Malley's credentials, it undercuts the president's own stance on Iranian policies. Richard Goldberg, senior adviser to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said that "so long as Malley is special envoy, you know the administration’s policy remains offering sanctions relief to the regime in Tehran."
It appears Malley's tenure may be coming to an end, with some high-level officials already calling for action against him. Bryan Leib, former executive director of Iranian Americans for Liberty, said, "Robert Malley will go down in the history books as the most ineffective and feckless State Department official of the last 50 years. It’s time for him to go."
Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have not yet commented on the story. Sources in the State Department suggest the White House is likely to disavow any official comment until the FBI investigation is closed. Special counsel is more than likely to be necessary in an effort to resolve the matter.
For now, Malley is on leave without pay and his security clearance has reportedly been revoked. He told CNN: “I have been informed that my security clearance is under review. I have not been provided any further information, but I expect the investigation to be resolved favorably and soon. In the meantime, I am on leave.”
Once the investigation is finished, the future of Malley and the Biden Administration's policy on Iran remains to be seen. If the breach of security goes beyond the lowest level, Malley's tenure is likely to be revoked, and the administration might implement policies that are more sympathetic to the Iranian people and their struggles for freedom from the oppressive Islamic Republic.