President Barack Obama has maintained the $400 million paid to Iran was not a ransom for American prisoners, but a report Wednesday detailed a "tightly scripted exchange specifically timed" with the plane carrying the cash and one carrying three freed Americans, sources told the Wall Street Journal.
"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," the WSJ's Jay Solomon and Carol E.. Lee wrote. "Once that happened, an Iranian cargo plane was allowed to bring the cash back from a Geneva airport that day, according to the accounts."
John Carlin, the head of the Justice Department's national security division, objected to the Jan. 17 payment to Iran and warned it would be seen as ransom money, it was reported last week. The Obama administration claimed the payment was the first installment of a $1.7 billion settlement from a failed arms deal in 1979.
U.S. officials claimed the transfer of cash and prisoners took place "through two separate diplomatic channels," the WSJ reported Wednesday, but the latest allegations might suggest otherwise.
"Once the Americans were 'wheels up' [in Tehran] on the morning of Jan. 17, Iranian officials in Geneva were allowed to take custody of the $400 million in currency, according to officials briefed on the exchange," the paper wrote.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus says of the exchange, "It's time for the Obama White House to drop the charade and admit it paid a $400 million ransom to the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism. President Obama has foolishly put a price on the head of every American abroad and it should be no surprise that Iran has since detained more U.S. citizens. Hillary Clinton's support for this dangerous blunder shows once again she does not have the judgement to be president."
Republican leaders are planning hearings on the $400 million transfer once Congress reconvenes in September.
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