Likely 2016 Candidate George Pataki Says GOP Letter to Iran Was Out of Line

The former New York governor also weighs in on the Clinton email controversy.

March 12, 2015, 10:00 AM

— -- Top Line

Likely GOP presidential contender George Pataki scolded 47 Republican senators for sending a letter to Iranian leaders – a move supported by at least five of his potential rivals -- breaking with his party to argue that foreign negotiations should be conducted by President Obama and without the intervention of Congress.

"Just imagine if, come 2017, there's a Republican president and a Democratic Congress: Would Republican candidates, would Republican senators want a Democratic Senate sending a letter to a country when the president is engaged in negotiations?”

"I don't think so," the former Republican governor of New York said in an interview with "Top Line."

Pataki's rebuke of the letter stands in contrast to several other likely Republican candidates who either signed the letter or expressed support for it, including Sens. Rand Paul and Marco Rubio, Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Gov. Rick Perry.

Pataki expressed concern about the tentative agreement with Iran that President Obama has hinted is to come but defended the president's right to control the negotiations without congressional meddling.

"Foreign policy, negotiations with foreign states, has to be conducted by the president and his team," Pataki said. "We don't have to agree with the decision. I have grave reservations about the deal that appears to be negotiated with Iran, but I don't think Congress independently reaches out to another government to express a different standpoint. "

Following Hillary Clinton's news conference Tuesday addressing her exclusive use of a private email address as secretary of state, Pataki said he is "stunned" by the likely Democratic presidential candidate's handling of the controversy in an era of major electronic security breaches.

"The fact that the secretary of state could have no government emails and do everything out of a basement server is mind-boggling to me," Pataki said. "First of all, it's arrogant, and second of all, I think it's extremely poor judgment. ... We live in a time where Sony was hacked by North Korea, where the Central Command of the U.S government's social media network was hacked into by ISIS, and she has a home brew in the basement?"

Though Clinton sought to assure the public in her news conference that there were never any security breaches of the server, Pataki expressed skepticism, saying, "We're supposed to have confidence that no confidential information was ever ... breached?"

"I don't care about the yoga, I don't care about Chelsea's wedding, but I do care about possible communications, or she was talking to political advisors, consultants and others with classified information," the former governor said, adding that, "if I were leading the country, I would say, 'We want to have that server.'"

Though Pataki is not even registering on early polling for the 2016 presidential contest, he joked that he's "on the upswing" if he receives a name mention next to the margin of error asterisk at the bottom of a poll. He pointed to his experience as the three-term governor of a state dominated by Democrats as evidence of why he shouldn't be ruled out in a crowded sea of 2016 contenders.

"Will the seas part if I announce that I'll be the nominee? Of course not, but ... I ran for governor and nobody gave me a chance the first time against [Gov.] Mario Cuomo," Pataki said. "You work hard, you have the right ideas, you connect with people, you get them to believe in you, and then you win."

For more of the interview with Pataki, including a discussion on his hobby as a bird-watcher and to which bird he would compare Hillary Clinton, check out this episode of "Top Line."

ABC News' Ali Dukakis, Tom Thornton, Brian Haefeli and Gale Marcus contributed to this episode.

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