Donald Trump on Wednesday attacked the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton over a report that the U.S. secretly ferried $400 million in cash to Iran as four American prisoners were freed earlier this year.
The “incompetent” Clinton, who was secretary of State during President Obama’s first term, “was the one who started talks to give 400 million dollars, in cash, to Iran,” Trump said on Twitter early on Wednesday morning, hours after the story broke in The Wall Street Journal.
According to the Journal, the U.S. delivered the cash to Iran as stacks of bills on wooden pallets in an unmarked cargo plane in January as the four Americans were in the final stages of their release from Iranian prison.
The payment was reportedly made in a combination of multiple currencies, including euros and Swiss francs. It is illegal to do business with Iran in U.S. dollars.
The State Department defended the payment, which came as part of a separate legal issue between the U.S. and Iran unrelated to either the American prisoners or the international nuclear pact, which went into full effect later that same weekend. The money is part of a scuttled arms accord reached shortly before the Iranian revolution in 1979.
“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,” spokesman John Kirby said in a statement, referring to the international court that oversaw the settlement deal.
The $400 million represented the first installment of a $1.7 billion settlement, which critics of the Obama administration have repeatedly decried as ransom for the prisoners’ release.
New details about the unusual nature of the payment are only likely to magnify those claims and renew focus on the White House’s controversial outreach to Iran.
“The logistics of this payment — literally delivering a plane full of cash to evade U.S. law — shows yet again the extraordinary lengths the Obama administration will go to accommodate Iran, all while hiding the facts from Congress and the American people,” Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), the head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement late on Tuesday evening.
“Hundreds of millions in the pockets of a terrorist regime means a more dangerous region, period. And paying ransom only puts more American lives in jeopardy.”
Clinton has taken credit for laying the groundwork for the Iran deal, despite unanimous opposition from Republicans and a fair amount of criticism from Democrats.