The chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, has sent a letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ) requesting records related to the $400 million payment in cash that the U.S. had given Iran in January 2016.
On August 5, Sen. Grassley penned a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch expressing concerns about a cash payment made to Iran, which happened to coincide with the release of four Iranian-American hostages, The Hill reports.
The Wall Street Journal had reported that DOJ officials had expressed concerns to the Obama administration that the payment would look suspicious, as if the U.S. were giving in to a ransom.
“These reports are particularly troubling in light of the Department’s continuing failure to cooperate with my inquiry into the FBI’s alleged role in facilitating ransom payments to terrorist groups,” Grassley wrote, The Hill reports.
The chairman added that his concerns were compounded by a previous Wall Street Journal story that noted that the FBI had provided guidance to the family of an aid worker who was had been a hostage of terrorist organization al Qaeda.
“[There] are serious questions about this administration’s policies regarding paying ransoms to terrorists and state-sponsors of terrorism,” Grassley added.
Grassley requested DOJ records and emails pertaining to the cash payment as well as any records related to the release of the four hostages. He also requested the names of the DOJ officials who had expressed their concerns in The Wall Street Journal story.
The cash payment had actually been the first installment of a $1.7 billion settlement that the U.S. had previously agreed to pay Iran. In 1979, shortly before the Iranian Revolution, the country had sent a payment to the U.S. to secure an arms deal. Following the revolution, the arms were never given and the money never returned. Iran had sought compensation in international court, prompting the U.S. to settle.
On August 4, President Barack Obama fired back against accusations that the cash payment to Iran had been ransom money, stating that his administration had disclosed the payment months beforehand.
“What we have is the manufacturing of outrage in a story that we disclosed in January,” Obama said during a Pentagon news conference, according to Business Insider. “And the only bit of news that is relevant on this is the fact that we paid cash.”
President Obama explained that because of the heavy sanctions that the U.S. had placed on Iran, his administration could not wire the money and instead had to deliver the payment in cash. He maintained that the payment coinciding with the hostage release was a coincidence.
Throughout the past week, GOP nominee Donald Trump twice claimed that he had personally seen a video of a U.S. plane arriving in Iran to deliver the payment, CNN reports.
“It was interesting because a tape was made,” Trump told his supporters during a rally in Maine, according to CNN. The business mogul said that the tape was made available by the Iranians because “they want to embarrass our president because we have a president who’s incompetent.”
On August 5, Trump took to Twitter to admit that he had been mistaken about the video. Instead, he had seen footage of the hostage swap.
“The plane I saw on television was the hostage plane in Geneva, Switzerland, not the plane carrying $400 million in cash going to Iran!” Trump tweeted.