WASHINGTON – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley is pressing for answers about the Justice Department’s involvement in the Obama administration’s $400 million cash payment to Iran that coincided with the release of four Americans who were detained in the country.
In a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Grassley cited recent Wall Street Journal articles stating that the Justice Department raised objections to the delivery of the cash at the same time as the release of the Americans. According to one article, “Justice Department officials had ‘concern the Iranians probably did consider it a ransom payment.’”
Grassley wrote that the administration’s actions are, “Particularly troubling in light of the Department’s continuing failure to cooperate with my inquiry into the FBI’s alleged role in facilitating ransom payments to terrorist groups.” He added that, “there are serious questions about this administration’s policies regarding paying ransoms to terrorists and state-sponsors of terrorism.”
The full text of Grassley’s letter is below. The letter can also be seen here.
VIA ELECTRONIC TRANSMISSION
The Honorable Loretta Lynch
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530
Dear Attorney General Lynch:
On August 3, 2016, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Obama administration secretly organized an airlift of $400 million worth of cash to Iran last January that coincided with the release of four Americans detained in Tehran. Later on August 3, the Wall Street Journal also reported that “[s]enior Justice Department officials objected to sending a plane loaded with cash to Tehran at the same time that Iran released four imprisoned Americans, but their objections were overruled by the State Department[.]” According to that report, Justice Department officials had “concern the Iranians probably did consider it a ransom payment.”
These reports are particularly troubling in light of the Department’s continuing failure to cooperate with my inquiry into the FBI’s alleged role in facilitating ransom payments to terrorist groups. Between the current reports of this $400 million payment to Iran and the previous reports that the FBI helped send substantial ransom payments to al Qaeda, there are serious questions about this administration’s policies regarding paying ransoms to terrorists and state-sponsors of terrorism. As Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which has oversight authority over the Justice Department, it is my duty to get the facts.
Accordingly, I am writing to request additional information about the Department of Justice’s role in this transfer of cash to Iran. Please respond to the following by August 19, 2016:
1. Please provide all Department of Justice records, including electronic communications involving Department of Justice personnel, relating to the $400 million payment to Iran.
2. Which Justice Department officials objected to sending the cash payment at the same time the prisoners were released? What were their objections? Please provide all records relating to their objections, including all records of the State Department’s disagreement with the objections, and the resolution of the dispute.
3. According to the Wall Street Journal, “[t]he prisoner-swap negotiations were led by the State Department, with help from the Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation.” Please provide all records relating to the FBI’s involvement in the prisoner-swap negotiations.
4. Did the Office of Legal Counsel or any other component of the Department of Justice analyze the legality of this cash transfer and simultaneous release of U.S. citizens? If so, please provide that analysis. If not, why not?
5. The Wall Street Journal also reported: “The Justice Department raised other objections to the Iran deals. Prosecutors were concerned that the U.S. would release too many Iranian convicts and drop too many pending criminal cases against people suspected of violating sanctions laws.” Please provide all records relating to these other objections Justice Department personnel raised regarding the Iran deals.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter. If you have any questions, please contact Patrick Davis of my Judiciary Committee Staff at (202) 224-5225.
Charles E. Grassley
Committee on the Judiciary
cc: The Honorable Patrick J. Leahy
Senate Committee on the Judiciary