LAS VEGAS -- Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said Monday that he plans to write a letter to the president of Iran seeking an appeal of the conviction on espionage charges of Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian.
Reid’s comments came at a “2016 Pregame” event here, hosted on the eve of the first Democratic debate by The Post and MGM Resorts International. Reid was among more than a half-dozen politicians and pundits who previewed the debate and offered other insights on the election season.
Iranian media reported Monday that Rezaian, imprisoned in Tehran for more than 14 months, had been convicted following an espionage trial that ended in August.
Rezaian and The Post have strongly denied the accusations, and the prosecution has drawn wide-ranging denunciations, including statements from the White House and press freedom groups.
Reid said he was astonished to learn that the conviction was handed down some time ago but announced only Monday. He said he is “cautiously optimistic” that an appeal will move forward.
“I think it’s the best thing for Iran, and it’s damn sure the best thing for us,” Reid said.
Reid, who was interviewed in front of a live audience by Post political reporter Paul Kane, also declined an opportunity to endorse Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic nomination. Reid has spoken in a supportive way about Clinton in the past but said he would make an announcement on his own schedule, possibly ahead of the Nevada caucuses.
Reid, who is set to retire in 15 months, also offered kind words about Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Clinton’s chief rival for the nomination, saying he “has been a very fine member of our caucus.” And Reid praised the other three Democrats who will be taking part in Tuesday’s debate, as well as Vice President Biden, who has yet to announce whether he will enter the race.
Reid said that Biden is making a personal decision and that he doesn’t think he’s made up his mind yet.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, had also been scheduled to appear on a panel at Monday night’s event. She canceled, citing travel problems.