Donald Trump is ripping into Hillary Clinton anew over news that the United States government covertly sent $400 million to Iran in January that coincided with the release of four American prisoners, although President Barack Obama's administration has hit back at any notion of a quid pro quo.
"Our incompetent Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, was the one who started talks to give 400 million dollars, in cash, to Iran. Scandal!" Trump tweeted Wednesday morning, following a Wall Street Journal report published Tuesday evening that cited U.S. and European officials, as well as congressional staff briefed on the details of the operation after the fact. As former secretary of state, Clinton has claimed credit for bringing Iran to the bargaining table through sanctions.
The previously unreported $400 million sent in January was the first installment of the White House's $1.7 billion settlement with Iran over a failed arms deal signed with Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi shortly before he was deposed in the 1979 revolution.
“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,” State Department spokesman John Kirby told the Journal. “Not only were the two negotiations separate, they were conducted by different teams on each side, including, in the case of The Hague claims, by technical experts involved in these negotiations for many years.”
The Journal reported that the payment was in foreign currency due to any transaction with Iran in U.S. dollars being illegal.
Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), who was the first Republican to rescind his endorsement of Trump, denounced the money as a "ransom payment" in a statement released by his office.
“We were right in January 2016 to describe the Administration’s $1.7 billion transfer to Iran as a ransom payment," Kirk said in a statement. "Paying ransom to kidnappers puts Americans even more at risk. While Americans were relieved by Iran’s overdue release of illegally imprisoned American hostages, the White House’s policy of appeasement has led Iran to illegally seize more American hostages, including Siamak Namazi, his father Baquer Namazi, and Reza Shahini.”
Nick Gass is deputy editor for breaking news. He joined POLITICO as a web producer in November 2012, following a reporting internship with The Dallas Morning News’ Washington bureau. Gass first worked in D.C. as ABC News’ David Kaplan Fellow while studying at the Missouri School of Journalism in 2011.
He graduated magna cum laude from the University of Missouri in May 2012 with a degree in convergence journalism and a minor in French.
Gass also anchored newscasts and reported for KBIA-FM, the NPR affiliate in central Missouri, earning two Mark of Excellence Awards from the Society of Professional Journalists.
Raised in the St. Louis suburb of Wildwood, Missouri, Gass is a huge fan of all things Cardinals, Blues and Mizzou.