Donald Trump's campaign hailed the latest revelations about the cash payment shipped to Iran by the Obama administration as evidence that Hillary Clinton, President Obama's first secretary of state, is "unfit to be president."
The State Department admitted Thursday that the $400 million payment, although technically unrelated to the release of four American hostages, was in fact "connected" to the release because the administration used the money as "leverage" to secure their freedom. The State Department previously denied there was any link between the two events, even as Republicans accused Obama of making a ransom payment.
"Already under fire for lying to the American people about her illegal email server, Clinton is continuing to align herself with an Administration that has continually lied to Americans as well," Trump campaign spokesman Jason Miller said Thursday. "By helping put together a deal that ultimately sent $400M to Iran that was likely used to fund terrorism, Clinton has proven herself unfit to be president of the United States."
Officially, the payment was the first installment of a $1.7 billion debt that traces back to a weapons sale that predates the Iranian revolution in 1979. The weapons were never delivered. President Obama announced that his administration had reached a settlement with Iran in January, along with the conclusion of the nuclear talks and the hostage release.
State Department officials previously denied that the payment had anything to do with the hostage release. "There was no timing that was associated between the two," State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau told reporters on August 8th. "I'm not going to get into a tick-tock. What I do, though, want to disassociate the idea — that you haven't said but has been in the public narrative — that there was some sort of tie between the two."
Another spokesman admitted that wasn't true on Thursday, though he denied that the payment qualified as a ransom. "We, of course, sought to retain maximum leverage until after American citizens were released, and that was our top priority," State Department spokesman John Kirby said. "If your top priority is to get your Americans out and you're already having some issues about locating some of them, [then] you want to make sure that that release gets done before you compete that transaction."
The admission revived GOP claims that the Obama administration violated the law. "Selective noun use does not excuse criminality, nor does it explain away seven months of lying to the American people," Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., said in response to Kirby's press briefing. "This is a shameful admission of wrongdoing and puts the lives of U.S. citizens around the world at risk."