Sen. Tom Cotton suggested Sunday that he’ll accept President Obama’s explanation that the roughly $400 million in cash to Iran amid the country holding several Americans captive was part of a decades-old settlement, but said the move sends a “dangerous” message to terrorists and others around the world.
“He said this payment was not a ransom,” the Arkansas Republican and major critic of Obama’s recent Iran nuclear deal, said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“It doesn't really matter though what President Obama says. It matters what the Iranians think and it matters what dictators and terrorists and gangsters all around the world think. And they clearly think that this was a ransom payment … That's why it's so dangerous.”
Cotton also accused administration officials of stonewalling Congress and the American public about the specifics of the deal and the cash delivery roughly six months ago, continuing his criticism last week of the settlement.
“We didn't know the cash payment, for instance,” Cotton said. “We didn't know that it was paid for with bills that could be easily laundered or used for terrorism or support for Iran's allies throughout the region. And we didn't know that the Department of Justice opposed it. … There are still a lot of questions left to be answered. And the Obama administration continues to stonewall on this.”
The first-term senator also used a litany of strong words to describe the money delivery, in Euro notes, and how the administration behaved, including acting like a “third world gun runner” and a “drug cartel to the world’s most dangerous terror state.”
News reports surfaces Tuesday about of the money being flown to Tehran in an unmarked aircraft -- on pallets and wrapped in cellophane. Within hours, the administration said the delivery and the release of the hostages were unrelated.
And Obama said Thursday at the Pentagon: “We announced these payments … many months ago. They were not a secret. It was not a nefarious deal. … We do not pay ransom for hostages."
The administration had announced in January that the U.S. government would give roughly $1.7 billion to Iran and release frozen Iranian assets in connection with a failed, 1970’s-era arms deal, instead of potentially paying more through arbitration.
On Sunday, Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Tim Kaine tried to end the controversy, arguing in part that the only new news was Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump thinking there was a video of the cash delivery.
“There's just no 'there' there,” Kaine, of Virginia, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” also insisting that the timing of the delivery and hostage release did not look like the paying of ransom.
“Nope,” he said. “We don't pay for hostages. We don't negotiate for hostages.”