The State Department’s press office director, Elizabeth Trudeau, would not say Monday whether Iran released American hostages before the Obama administration airlifted $400 million to the Islamic Republic.
Associated Press reporter Matt Lee pressed Trudeau on the issue, saying if the money arrived before the hostages’ plane took off and left Iran, that would imply the money was a ransom payment, at least in the eyes of Tehran. Lee mentioned that he asked the same question twice last week.
Recent Stories in National Security
"Are you now able to say whether or not the plane with the money landed before the plane with the prisoners took off from Tehran?" Lee asked. "Because as you may know, since the question was last asked on Thursday, one of the former prisoners said that they had to wait for this other plane, or at least another plane to arrive. Are you able to shed any more light on that?"
Trudeau said that she would not go into specifics, but did say there was no connection between the prisoners leaving Iran and the $400 million payment it received. She added that there was a delay before the Americans left, but it was not related to the money shipment.
"Claims that the freed Americans were not allowed to depart until a ‘plane full of cash,’ and I’m doing that in air quotes, are just false," Trudeau said.
"But still in terms of the timing of it, did one arrive before the other left?" Lee asked.
"There was no delay in allowing the Americans to leave," Trudeau responded.
"But you just said there was a delay," Lee said.
"Well, there was no delay waiting for a second plane full of cash," Trudeau said.
Lee repeatedly said that he wanted to know whether the plane full of money left before the hostages or not. Trudeau refused to go into the specifics of what happened.
"What I do though want to disassociate the idea, you know that you haven’t said, but has been in the public narrative, that there was some sort of tie between the two," Trudeau said.
"Yeah, I realize that you guys don’t think there was, but it seems a very simple question to ask whether or not the plane with the money landed before the plane with the prisoners took off," Lee said.
Trudeau said the plane with the hostages was held up to make sure that all of them were accounted for and on the plane. Lee challenged Trudeau on how she knows this. She replied that the State Department was confident based off their knowledge on the ground that this was the reason for the hostages being delayed from leaving Iran.