U.S. Senator Bill Nelson

Serving Florida

Nelson, Rubio press Trump on search for missing FBI agent

By Sergio Bustos, Politico
Jul 11, 2017

WASHINGTON — Nearly two dozen lawmakers are urging the Trump administration to continue to search for the whereabouts of former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who disappeared in Iran more than a decade ago and was believed to be either imprisoned or dead.

The bipartisan group, led by Sen. Bill Nelson, (D-Fla.) and Sen. Marco Rubio, (R-Fla.), sent a letter Tuesday to the White House pressing administration officials to “maintain pressure on Iran to see that [Bob] is returned as soon as possible.”

“Bob is still not home, and despite repeated promises, Iran has yet to cooperate in any meaningful way,” said the lawmakers wrote. “Iran is responsible — if Iranian officials don’t have Bob, they know where to find him.”

The lawmakers, a mix of Senate and House members, including several South Florida congressional members, are asking President Donald Trump to “re-engage with Iran and make clear that continued delay in returning Bob … is another obstacle Iran must overcome if it wants to improve relations with the United States.”

The letter was signed by U.S. Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Richard Burr, R-N.C., Chris Coons, D-Delaware, Bob Corker, R-Tenn., John Cornyn, R-Texas, Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. and Mark Warner, D-Va. The congressional members from South Florida include Democratic U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Republicans Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Last month, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson promised Rep. Deutch that he would meet with Levinson’s family. They live in Coral Springs, Fla.

Levinson, a private investigator and retired FBI and DEA agent, went missing on March 9, 2007 while on the Iranian island of Kish on a secret assignment as a CIA contractor. For years, federal law enforcement officials — the FBI in particular — had been lobbying for Levinson’s release as part of any deal with Iran, especially after rumors intensified that he had died at the hands of Iranian security forces. In March 2015, the FBI increased the reward for information leading to his return to $5 million.

In January 2016, FBI officials were outraged that Levinson’s case was not part of then-President Barack Obama’s announcement of a prisoner swap with Iran to release four imprisoned Iranian-Americans.

The FBI issued a statement the same day of Obama’s announcement: “Today, the United States celebrates the safe return of four American citizens detained by the government of Iran to their families and loved ones. Unfortunately, the family of retired FBI agent Robert 'Bob' Levinson still waits.’’

Later, senior officials from the Obama White House and Justice and State Departments said Iran had promised cooperation on the Levinson case.