Jul 7, 2023, 7:00pm EDT

FBI investigates Biden Iran envoy over classified information


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The Scoop

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating Rob Malley, who until recently served as President Biden’s special envoy for Iran, over the handling of classified information, according to a source briefed on the matter within the State Department.

Malley confirmed last week that he had been placed on unpaid leave earlier this year and had his security clearance suspended.

The White House referred questions to the State Department, which declined to comment but pointed Semafor to its statement from last week confirming that Malley was on leave and that Abram Paley would serve as acting special envoy for Iran.

The FBI declined to comment. Malley did not respond to a request for comment before publication.

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Morgan’s view

The FBI’s involvement raises the stakes of the investigation into a veteran, high-profile, and sometimes controversial diplomat, and suggests that investigators are considering something beyond the lowest-level mishandling of documents.


A senior U.S. official, who didn’t have direct knowledge of the matter, told Semafor that for a political appointee at Malley’s level, government agencies would not suspend a clearance independently unless a law enforcement agency has an open investigation. News outlets including Semafor reported last week that he faced an internal diplomatic security investigation. The source briefed on the matter said it had been turned over to the FBI.

The details of the case, and what Malley is suspected of, are also not clear beyond that it deals with his handling of classified information. But the involvement of the FBI is significant in that it indicates there could be suspicion of criminal wrongdoing.

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Know More

Malley told news outlets in a statement last week that his clearance was “under review” but that he expected “the investigation to be resolved favorably and soon.”

While news that Malley was on official leave broke last week, U.S. officials who spoke to Semafor said that he had essentially been absent from his duties for over a month. Axios reported that he went on leave “several weeks ago.”

The Malley investigation is particularly sensitive because of his long relationship with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, whom he’s known since they attended high school together in Paris. He’s played key roles in Obama and Biden Administration policies toward Iran.

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  • The Financial Times reported last month that Malley had met several times with Amir Saeid Iravani, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, in recent months. Recent discussions have reportedly revolved around a potential prisoner exchange with Iran.
  • The White House has repeatedly downplayed the prospect of a return to the agreement to curtail Iran’s nuclear program, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
  • Republicans were deeply critical of Malley when President Biden named him to his current position (which is not Senate confirmed) in 2021.

Jay Solomon contributed reporting.