For the self-proclaimed “most transparent administration ever” it appears keeping the lies straight is becoming harder and harder. Having slammed the press, Donald Trump, and anyone who dare mention the “lack of logic” in paying a $400 million ransom for 4 Iran hostages, WSJ reports that Treasury officials have confirmed that Obama lied and in fact, the tightly scripted exchange of cash was specifically for the release of several American prisoners held in Iran. Trump was right again.
As a reminder, The Hill reported that, President Obama chastised the press for their coverage of the payment, noting that the deal with Iran was announced months ago as part of a larger diplomatic settlement.
“This wasn’t some nefarious deal,” Obama said.
“It’s been interesting to watch this story surface,” the president said. “Some of you may recall, we announced these payments in January. Many months ago. There wasn’t a secret, we announced them to all of you.”
“What we have is the manufacturing of outrage on a story that we disclosed in January,” he added later.
“The notion that we would somehow start now in this high-profile way, and announce it to the world, even as we’re looking in the faces of other families whose loved ones are being held hostage and say to them, ‘we don’t pay ransom,’ defies logic,” Obama said.
Defies logic indeed – because having slammed the press for suggesting this was a “ransom payment,” we discover that is exactly what The Justice Department claimed…
In his remarks, the president didn’t mention the objections raised by his own appointees within the Justice Department, where, according to people familiar with the discussions, many officials raised alarms that the timing of the cash payment looked like ransom. (via WSJ)
The head of the national security division at the Justice Department was among the agency’s senior officials who objected to paying Iran hundreds of millions of dollars in cash at the same time that Tehran was releasing American prisoners, according to people familiar with the discussions.
John Carlin, a Senate-confirmed administration appointee, raised concerns when the State Department notified Justice officials of its plan to deliver to Iran a plane full of cash, saying it would be viewed as a ransom payment, by these people. A number of other high-ranking Justice officials voiced similar concerns as the negotiations proceeded, they said.
The U.S. paid Iran $400 million in cash on Jan. 17 as part of a larger $1.7 billion settlement of a failed 1979 arms deal between the U.S. and Iran that was announced that day. Also on that day, Iran released four detained Americans in exchange for the U.S.’s releasing from prison—or dropping charges against—Iranians charged with violating sanctions laws. Obama said the swap was agreed upon in separate talks.
The objection of senior Justice Department officials was that Iranian officials were likely to view the $400 million payment as ransom, thereby undercutting a longstanding U.S. policy that the government doesn’t pay ransom for American hostages, these people said. The policy is based on a concern that paying ransom could encourage more Americans to become targets for hostage-takers.
Of course, the denials kept on coming from The White House. However, as The Wall Street Journal now reports, new details of the $400 million U.S. payment to Iran earlier this year depict a tightly scripted exchange specifically timed to the release of several American prisoners held in Iran, based on accounts from U.S. officials and others briefed on the operation…
U.S. officials wouldn’t let Iranians take control of the money until a Swiss Air Force plane carrying three freed Americans departed from Tehran on Jan. 17, the officials said.
Once that happened, an Iranian cargo plane was allowed to bring the cash back from a Geneva airport that day, according to the accounts.
President Barack Obama said the payment didn’t amount to ransom, because the money was owed by the U.S. to Iran as part of a longstanding dispute linked to a failed arms deal from the 1970s. U.S. officials have said that the prisoner release and cash transfer took place through two separate diplomatic channels.
But the handling of some random 40 year overdue “payment” and its connection to the release of the Americans have raised questions among lawmakers and administration critics.
One of the Americans released in January as part of the prisoner exchange, a Catholic pastor named Saeed Abedini, said he and other American prisoners were kept waiting at Mehrabad airport for more than 20 hours from Jan. 16 to the morning of Jan. 17.
He said in an interview that he was told by a senior Iranian intelligence official at the time that their departure was contingent upon the landing of a second airplane.
Just as Trump had suggested (before oddly retracting his suggestion), the exchange did take place and as the BBC reported. a video did indeed exist of the events, referring to a documentary called “The Rules of the Game” which was broadcast on Iranian state TV in February. In the clip, one can see shots of an airport are accompanied by commentary which references 17 January in Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport.
Specifically, the video shows a loaded crate, partially blurred out, which allegedly shows the money in question.