Obama administration unable to explain previous denials of a link between cash release and prisoners

The Obama administration held a conference call for reporters during which it offered a fuller explanation for its decision to make the release of $400 million in cash to Iran contingent on the release of U.S. prisoners. The the two senior administration officials on the call demanded anonymity. Given the lame spin they were offering it’s not hard to see why. From the Associated Press:

The wife of one of the prisoners, Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, went “incommunicado” for several hours even though Iran had agreed to allow her to join her husband on the plane.

At another point, a prisoner in Virginia who was part of the package refused to accept his pardon, leading Iran to threaten to pull out of the deal. Iran also became miffed when it learned that the prisoners being released in the United States didn’t want to travel to Iran, the official said. Iran asked the U.S. to pressure them into leaving, but the American negotiators refused, he said.

The various demands led the U.S. to believe there was a possibility the American prisoners would be returned to Iran’s notorious Evin prison, the official said.

And that is why the U.S. decided to use the settlement money as leverage, the official said.

None of this changes the story. The administration said back in January there was a problem getting Rezaian’s wife on the plane. And now the administration is saying there were other problems with the release of Iranian prisoners. That’s not the point here and they know it.

As the AP puts it, “Friday’s explanation, while more detailed than previous tick-tocks of the diplomacy, still didn’t answer why the administration insisted for seven months that the money and the prisoners never became part of a common negotiation.”

Exactly! Yesterday I posted some of the statements made by official spokespeople for the State Department earlier this month, each one of them explicitly denying any link between the prisoner release and the money:

No linkage, no quid pro quo, no tie—what it really adds up to is no truth.

Maybe the negotiations were separate to begin with (should we still take their word on that?), but as soon as things started looking iffy the administration made the release of the money contingent on the release of the prisoners. That’s what everyone outside the Obama administration would call a linkage, a quid pro quo or a tie. Given that the link was to a prisoner release it’s also pretty close to the dictionary definition of ransom.

And, oh yeah, in the midst of cementing the president’s vaunted Iran deal no one thought Iran was trustworthy unless threatened financially. That’s another little revelation that only came out this week.

The administration should be asked about this over and over in public until they admit what is obvious: They lied to the press and through them to the American people about how this deal went down.