Top Republicans are taking the Obama administration to task after a State Department official has disclosed that the $400 million payment to Iran in January had been withheld until five American hostages were released.
On August 18, State Department spokesman John Kirby responded to a news story that the U.S. had withheld a payment that had been owed to Iran due to an arms deal carried out almost four decades ago.
The payment had coincided with the release of five Iranian-American prisoners. Kirby admitted that the U.S. had refused to deliver the $400 million before Iran released the hostages, despite the Obama administration’s position that the two transactions were completely separate.
“With concerns that Iran may renege on the prisoner release, given unnecessary delays regarding persons in Iran who could not be located -- as well as, to be quite honest, mutual mistrust between Iran and the United States, we of course sought to retain maximum leverage until after American citizens were released,” Kirby said, according to The Washington Post.
In January, Kirby had stated that the two payments shared no connection, noting that the $400 million payment to Iran was a settlement due to a longstanding dispute between the two nations.
“As we’ve made clear, the negotiations over the settlement of an outstanding claim… were completely separate from the discussions about returning our American citizens home,” Kirby said at the time.
Smelling the proverbial blood in the water, top Republicans have voiced outrage against the Obama administration, deeming Kirby’s comments as an admission that the U.S. had paid a ransom for prisoners.
“Today, the State Department admitted what we’ve long suspected -- that the president and his administration have been misleading us since January about whether he ransomed the freedom of the Americans unjustly imprisoned in Iran,” said House Speaker, Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, according to The Hill.
Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska blasted Kirby’s explanation of how the payment arrangement was strategically sound, stating “If a cash payment is contingent on a hostage release, it’s a ransom.”
The House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman, Republican Rep. Ed Royce of California, has announced that his committee will hold hearings on the matter.
During a presidential rally in Charlotte, North Carolina, GOP nominee Donald Trump blasted President Barack Obama for the new admission, stating that this would put Americans traveling abroad at risk for kidnapping, the Boston Herald reports.
“[Obama] lied about the hostages -- openly and blatantly -- just like he lied about Obamacare,” Trump said, according to the Boston Herald.
The Republican National Committee Chairman, Reince Priebus, issued a statement demanding that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton disavow the $400 million payment given to Iran, Politico reports.
“Anything less than full-throated repudiation of this horrendous decision will only further prove she lacks the judgment to be president,” Priebus said of Clinton.