WASHINGTON, Aug. 19, 2016 – New revelations by the Obama administration that the $400 million payment to Iran was “leverage” to get hostages released again raises questions about transparency in the Obama White House.
State Department spokesman Jack Kirby clarified on Thursday that the timing of the payment, arriving at the same time the hostages were released, was not completely coincidental. Kirby said that, while the negotiations on the payment — part of a decades-old financial dispute between the U.S. and Iran — and the hostages were separate, the administration did use the payment as “leverage.” Kirby said the administration delayed the payment until the hostages were en route, “to make sure they got out safely and efficiently.”
The latest statements come after continued insistence by the White House that the payment was not ransom, a statement the administration continues to repeat. The timing, explains officials, was strategic to ensure the release, but they say this does not imply it was any type of ransom.
— Heather Nauert (@statedeptspox) August 3, 2016
Republicans, however, disagree. Sen/ Ben Sasse criticized Kirby’s comments, saying they proved the cash was in fact a ransom payment. “If it quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. If a cash payment is contingent on a hostage release, it’s a ransom. The truth matters and the president owes the American people an explanation.”
— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) August 18, 2016
The $400 million payment has been routinely criticized by Donald Trump in many of his stump speeches. Trump blames not only Obama but also Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton for the payment.
Regardless of whether the payment was a ransom or leverage, it will likely remain an issue into the November elections. The vast difference between the views of the two parties is yet another illustration of the deep divisions between them, likely to intensify before November.