Hillary Clinton on Iran Deal: 'This Is an Important Step'

The Democratic presidential candidate is talking about the deal on the Hill, where one congressman says her support was "full-throated."

In a meeting with House Democrats on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton threw her support behind the deal the White House reached with Iran on Monday night. The deal lifts sanctions on Iran in exchange for Iran's agreement not to pursue nuclear weaponization.

In a press conference at the Capitol following the meeting, Clinton said she supported enforcement of the deal, but added that the U.S. government should continue to fight terrorism backed by the country.

"I think we have to look at this seriously, evaluate it carefully, but I believe based on what I know now, this is an important step," she said. "There will be a number of issues that have to be addressed. I want to just mention, too, the first is enforcement. This agreement will have to be enforced vigorously, relentlessly."

She added that she has some lingering distrust of the Iranian government.

"This does put a lid on the nuclear program, but we still have a lot of concern about the bad behavior and the actions by Iran, which remains the largest state sponsor of terrorism," Clinton said. "Having been part of building the coalition that brought us to the point of this agreement, I think we will have to immediately, upon completion of this agreement and its rigorous enforcement, look to see how we build a coalition to try to prevent and undermine Iran's bad behaviors in other arenas."

House Democrats who attended the meeting Monday morning say that Clinton unequivocally supported the agreement.

"She endorsed it full-throated," Rep. Gerald Connolly said. "She was not equivocal at all in her support of the agreement as she understands it."

Clinton, along with other former secretaries of State, will be further briefed on the deal in a conference call with the White House on Tuesday. Clinton has been in contact with the White House on the deal, and she said President Obama called her late Monday night to tell her an agreement had been reached.

Jake Sullivan—who helped lay the groundwork for the Iran deal as Clinton's deputy chief of staff at the State Department, and who is now a senior policy adviser for her presidential campaign—says his boss catalyzed the negotiations with Iran during her time as secretary of State.

"I believe that this deal is the best and most effective way of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," Sullivan said. "Secretary Clinton was centrally involved at the outset of all this, in building the global sanctions coalition that created the negotiating leverage to bring Iran to the table and in starting the diplomacy that has resulted in what happened today."

Rep. Sander Levin said Clinton was met with a standing ovation when she walked into the meeting room.

"She was at ease," Levin said. "She was at home."

Rep. Jim McGovern added a couple of caveats to what was discussed in the meeting.

"She, like all of us, hasn't read all the 80 pages," McGovern said. "She also made a point of saying that this agreement doesn't excuse Iran's bad behavior in terms of its intervention in the Middle East, but would rather be able to deal with Iran in those issues as a non-nuclear power."

Rep. Earl Blumenauer said Clinton made it clear the Iran deal is worthy of support.

"She was eloquent and forceful in talking about the Iranian agreement and the history leading up to it and why it puts us in a potentially stronger position," Blumenauer said. "It was very artfully and fully expressed, and I thought it was very helpful."

Rep. Peter Welch said he was not surprised that Clinton came out in support of the deal quickly after it was announced.

"The whole negotiation began during the Bush administration," Welch said. "She played a major role, and I thought she had a good analysis."

According to Rep. Steve Israel, Clinton said "The core issues of the agreement are worth supporting."

Clinton also told the caucus that as a former secretary of State, she understands the difficulty of negotiating with foreign powers, according to Rep. Xavier Becerra.

"She made the point if you are looking for perfection, you are never going to find it," Becerra said.