Obama to Press Corps: We Announced Iran Payments in January, to All of You!
President Obama said that the $400 million payment to Iran was not ransom, and was never a secret.
"Some of you may recall, we announced these payments in January, many months ago," the president said at a news conference at the Pentagon. "There wasn't a secret; we announced them to all of you. [White House Press Secretary] Josh [Earnest] did a briefing on them."
Obama said that the payment represented a settlement with Iran over frozen assets before an international tribunal, and that U.S. litigators warned the government that it potentially risked owing "billions" to the Islamic Republic.
He repeated that it wasn't a secret, saying "we were completely open with everybody about it," adding that it was "interesting...how it suddenly became a story again."
The president said, "We do not pay ransom for hostages."
He said the families of hostages know that U.S. policy is not to pay ransom, and that doing so in this instance "defies logic."
He said that the timing of the exchange happened as a consequence that diplomatic action had begun again for the first time in several decades.
"So, the issue is not so much that it was a 'coincidence' as it is that we were able to have a direct discussion. John Kerry could meet with the foreign minister, which meant that our ability to clear accounts on a number of different issues at the same time converged."
Finally, Obama said that the reason the money was delivered in cash was because there is no banking relationship with Iran.
He remarked that instead of the media acknowledging that the Iran nuclear deal has worked out as planned, one year after being signed, "what we have is manufacturing outrage in a story that we disclosed in January."