CNN National Security Analyst Debunks Claims That Obama Administration Paid “Ransom” To Iran

Kayyem: “The Idea That Because It Was The Same Time Period That That Somehow Shows This Administration Violated U.S. Law Is Sort Of Beyond The Pale”

From the August 4 edition of CNN's New Day:

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JOHN BERMAN (CO-HOST):  The White House hates the word ransom. They absolutely -- any chance they get, they say it wasn't ransom. However, they really have a hard time answering the question, they don't really answer the question when asked if they did not get the money, if Iran did not get the money, would these hostages have been released?

JULIETTE KAYYEM: And the reason why is, let's just go back to January of this year. So there's three different negotiations going on simultaneously. I call them past, present, and future. Past is the debt we're talking about. Present is getting the hostages who were then being held in Iran out. And the future is the nuclear deal. They are done on three different tracks simultaneously, because of course we're in a new era with Iran. So it'd be very hard to say, well, if you take one piece away, hard to know what would happen with the other piece. So this idea that something that was announced in January is now somehow nefarious because the administration did not want to violate U.S. law and the means -- I mean, maybe you'll criticize the means by which they sent the money there. Fine, I mean, whatever. But the idea that because it was the same time period that that somehow shows this administration violated U.S. law is sort of beyond the pale. There are three concurrent negotiations going on at the same time. That's because a deal is being made with a nation that we did not have relations with for a couple decades. 

BERMAN: This feels like the type of thing where the U.S. government just can't admit that sometimes they give money for hostages or there is -- it seems like it happened. Iran got money. Hostages were released. Without the money, the hostages wouldn't be released, but we just can't speak those words out loud because of diplomatic protocol. 

KAYYEM: No, no, no. That would be true. I would agree with you, if this $400 million came out of nowhere, right? This was a litigated sum of money based on an agreement we made in 1979 that we essentially abandoned because they took our hostages. So it's not like this number came out of nowhere. There was litigation going on that we needed to settle. If out of nowhere we find out that the administration sent $300, $400, $1 billion over to Iran, then you'd have an argument.