The White House is arguing that the payment of $1.7 billion in hard currency to Iran at the same time Iran released four U.S. hostages was not a quid pro quo.

Former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said on Your World that the exchange "means something to people who don't believe in dealing with terrorist regimes, or violating sanctions or paying ransom."

"Some of this bears very serious scrutiny because of the way it was done," he said.

Ashcroft said that the cash aspect of the deal is "gangster-esque," especially when one considers that the currency was converted from U.S. dollars to Swiss francs and Euros.

"So this becomes totally untraceable. And you have to ask yourself if the people who were involved in making these decisions feel so badly about the legal standing of the decisions that they sought to make them untraceable.

"If this indeed is something that should have been done and something that's within the range of things that America should do in protecting our national interest, why not do it openly? So there are serious questions."

Ashcroft said it looks like officials tried to keep the payment "covered up."

Watch the full interview above.

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