GOP lawmaker presses Treasury over Iran payment

Aug 16
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U.S. Congressman Mike Pompeo
U.S. Congressman Mike Pompeo

The Hill
Monday, 15 August 2016

Rep.Mike Pompeo(R-Kan.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, is pressing the Obama administration for more answers on its transfer of $400 million in cash to Iran.  

Pompeo plans to send a letter to the Treasury Department on Monday with a series of questions on the transfer to determine whether any laws were violated, he told The Hill. 

Earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Obama administration secretly organized an airlift of $400 million worth of cash to Iran, which coincided with the release of four Americans detained in Iran. 

Critics say it equated to a "ransom" payment, which would violate longstanding U.S. policy. The administration says it announced the payment, which was the first installment of a $1.7 billion dispute over an arms deal with Iran signed before the 1979 fall of the Shah, in January.

However, the nature of the transfer, which involved the U.S. procuring the money in Swiss francs and other currencies, stacking it on wooden pallets and flying it aboard an unmarked cargo plane to Iran, raised questions as to whether it could be a secret ransom payment. 

President Obama has pushed back against the suggestion of impropriety, arguing that the payment was announced ahead of time, was not a hostage payment, and that the timing was coincidental and more to do with resolving a longstanding issue after the Iran nuclear deal was reached. 

"What we have is the manufacturing of outrage in a story that we disclosed in January. And the only bit of news that is relevant on this is the fact that we paid cash," he said during an Aug. 4 press conference. 

"The reason that we had to give them cash is precisely because we are so strict in maintaining sanctions, and we do not have a banking relationship with Iran, that we couldn't send them a check, and we could not wire the money," he said. 

Pompeo, a fierce critic of the administration, says whether the payment was made in cash is "completely irrelevant." 

"There is a prohibition on the transfer of U.S. assets to Iran. And that would include indirect transfer of assets. And yet the president admitted that there were American assets transferred to Iran," he said. 

"And I'm trying to figure out who did that, who authorized it, how did it come to be. Was there a waiver granted? Did the president sign a waiver? Was there a legal memorandum that supported this? What other countries were involved?" he said. 

"What appropriated funds needed to be spent to execute that? That is, some some Treasury Department employee who was paid by the American taxpayer worked on this and spent their time on this, so there was taxpayer dollars involved in this transaction with the Iranian regime," he said. 

"All of which is unlawful today," he added.  

Pompeo said it's still not known whether the rest of the $1.7 billion was paid. 

"And so there's lots of questions, and the reason those questions matter, certainly we don't want anybody breaking U.S. law but they matter because we still have hostages held lots of places in the world, certainly in Iran even subsequent to this ransom payment," he said. 

"We've got hostages, and the price for their release just became clearer," he said. 

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