The Obama administration is withholding from Congress details about how $1.3 billion in U.S. taxpayer funds was delivered to Iran, according to conversations with lawmakers, who told the Washington Free Beacon that the administration is now stonewalling an official inquiry into the matter.
The Departments of State, Treasury, and Justice have all rebuffed a congressional probe into the circumstances surrounding the $1.3 billion payment to Iran, which is part of an additional $400 million cash payout that occurred just prior to the release of several U.S. hostages and led to accusations that the administration had paid Iran a ransom.
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The Obama administration has admitted in recent days that the $400 million cash delivery to Iran was part of an effort to secure the release of these American hostages, raising further questions on Capitol Hill about White House efforts to suppress these details from the public.
The $400 million was part of a $1.7 billion legal settlement reached with Iran earlier this year. Congressional inquiries into how this money reached Iran are failing to get answers.
The State and Treasury Departments declined on Tuesday to answer a series of questions from the Free Beacon about the method in which U.S. taxpayer funds were paid to Iran.
The administration is also withholding key details about the payment from leading members of Congress, including Sens. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) and Mike Lee (R., Utah), who launched an inquiry into the matter earlier this month.
The Departments of State, Treasury, and Justice all failed to respond to the inquiry by Monday’s deadline, according to congressional sources tracking the matter.
"The already bizarre circumstances surrounding the $1.7 billion payment to the Islamic Republic have only gotten stranger in the weeks since we learned of the $400 million in cash that was sent to the Iranian regime last January 16th," Cruz said to the Free Beacon. "If this payment was, as the Obama administration insists, a straightforward settlement of an old debt that it would have cost America more to contest, why all the secrecy?"
The State Department said it does not know how the remaining $1.3 billion was transferred or to whom it was transferred. Cruz described this disclosure as "confounding."
"It is even more confounding that the State Department spokesman claimed Monday not to know how or to whom the residual $1.3 billion was transferred, although he does know the transaction happened," Cruz said. "That kind of money doesn’t just transfer itself to a rogue regime still under heavy U.S. sanctions for its sponsorship of terrorism. Someone in our government must have the answers the American people deserve."
Cruz and Lee are seeking to determine if these payments violated U.S. law. They also requested information about the U.S. officials who negotiated and carried out the payments.
"While we are deeply concerned about the national security implications of the administration’s cash-for-hostages scheme, especially in light of reports that Iran has already arrested additional Americans, the purpose of this letter is to inquire about the legality of the payment," the senators wrote in an Aug. 12 letter.
"It is imperative that the administration provide a full accounting of its conduct with respect to the $400 million cash payment to Iran," they wrote. "If the administration violated the law, then Congress and the American people should be made aware of it so that they can hold the appropriate officials accountable and take whatever steps necessary to strengthen the law and prevent any reoccurrence."
While the administration has remained silent about the circumstances surrounding the payment, investigative reporter Claudia Rosett recently disclosed that the Treasury Department transferred just under $1.3 billion to the State Department in 13 "large identical sums."
The funds, allocated for "foreign claims," could shine a light on how the administration moved taxpayer funds into the State Department’s purview in order to provide the additional payment to Iran.
In 13 individual payments of $99,999,999.99, the Treasury Department moved a total of 1,299,999,999.87, which roughly amounts to the remaining money owed to Iran.