AP FACT CHECK: Trump revisits old fictions about Iran money
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is recycling familiar fictions concerning the Iran nuclear deal as he lashes out at a Republican senator who criticized him and a U.S. official who resigned in protest against Trump’s plan to pull troops from Syria.
Trump slapped both critics in one tweet on Monday:
“For all of the sympathizers out there of Brett McGurk remember, he was the Obama appointee who was responsible for loading up airplanes with 1.8 Billion Dollars in CASH & sending it to Iran as part of the horrific Iran Nuclear Deal (now terminated) approved by Little Bob Corker.”
THE FACTS: Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee actually was a leading opponent of the deal. Brent McGurk, who is resigning as Trump’s envoy to the coalition fighting the Islamic State group in Syria, was indeed a chief negotiator of the Iran nuclear deal. But Trump, for years, has told a dodgy story about payments made to Iran as part of the agreement.
Here’s what the president doesn’t tell you in his tweet:
—The $1.8 (actually $1.7 billion) was a debt owed to Iran, which bought military equipment from the U.S. that it never received because relations ruptured when the shah was overthrown in 1979.
—The debt was in international arbitration for years. As part of that, Iran paid settlements of more than $2.5 billion to U.S. citizens and businesses.
—$400 million, representing the principal and held in a U.S. government trust fund, was paid in cash and flown to Tehran on a cargo plane, which gave rise to Trump’s dramatic accounts of money stuffed in barrels or boxes and delivered in the dead of night.
The remaining $1.3 billion, representing interest accrued over nearly 40 years, was paid separately. In order not to violate U.S. regulations barring direct U.S. dollar transfers to Iranian banks, the money was remitted to Iran in late January and early February 2016 in foreign hard currency from the central banks of the Netherlands and of Switzerland, according to the Congressional Research Service .
—As for McGurk being an “Obama appointee,” the veteran diplomat actually was appointed by Republican President George W. Bush as a senior aide for Iraq and Afghanistan. During the negotiations for the Iran nuclear deal by the Obama administration, he led secret side talks with Tehran on the release of Americans imprisoned there.
—Corker was no architect of the 2015 international agreement forged by the U.S. and other world powers to constrain Iran’s ability to build a nuclear arsenal. He argued at the time that Obama should have made the international pact a treaty subject to approval by the Senate.
When Obama didn’t do that, Corker helped fellow senators write legislation that subjected the accord to periodic congressional review. The legislation would have blocked the deal if that effort got enough votes. It didn’t. Obama brought the deal into effect, not Congress.
Trump ignores that record in going after the retiring senator, who raised Trump’s ire last year by calling the president “utterly untruthful” and held him responsible for “the debasing of our nation.”
In recent days, Corker called Trump’s fight for money for a border wall — the issue that has partially closed the government — a “juvenile” spectacle.
On Sunday, Trump tweeted that Corker wanted to run for re-election and asked for his endorsement, but “I said NO and the game was over.” In fact, The Associated Press learned that Trump urged Corker to run during a private meeting in September 2017. And at the time, Corker’s chief of staff, Todd Womack, said Trump called Corker afterward to ask that he reconsider his decision to leave the Senate. Trump “reaffirmed that he would have endorsed him, as he has said many times,” the aide said.
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This story has been corrects McGurk’s role in the Iran nuclear negotiations to leading side talks on the release of Americans imprisoned in Iran, not leading the main talks.