WASHINGTON, Aug. 5 (UPI) — Two days after he generated questions for describing an Iranian government video purportedly showing a $400 million cash payment from the United States, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said the video in question was actually U.S. prisoners in Iran being dropped off in Switzerland.
Trump told supporters in Florida on Wednesday he had seen video of the Iranian government unloading cash from an airplane as part of what Trump called a ransom payment by the United States paid to secure the prisoners’ release.
The cash transfer did take place on the same day the prisoners were released, but the Obama administration said it did not happen at the same time and denied the money was ransom. Instead, the Obama administration said it was the first payment on a $1.7 billion settlement between the two nations over a botched arms deal dating back to 1979, prior to the Iranian revolution.
“We do not pay ransom for hostages,” President Barack Obama said in a press conference Thursday. “The notion that we would somehow start now, in this high-profile way … and say to them that we don’t pay ransom defies logic.”
On Wednesday, Trump prompted a media firestorm with remarks at the Florida rally, where he said he had viewed video of the $400 million cash transfer.
“They have a perfect tape, done by obviously a government camera, and the tape is of the people taking the money off the plane. Right? That means that in order to embarrass us further, Iran sent us the tapes. Right?” Trump said. “It’s a military tape, it’s a tape that was a perfect angle, nice and steady, nobody getting nervous because they’re gonna be shot because they’re shooting a picture of money pouring off a plane.”
In response, Trump’s spokeswoman confirmed the video Trump described actually showed the U.S. prisoners arriving in Geneva on a Swiss airplane after being let go by the Iranians.
Even after his campaign said the video he was describing did not show the cash transfer, Trump repeated the claim at a rally in Maine on Thursday.
On Friday morning he tweeted a clarification: “The plane I saw on television was the hostage plane in Geneva, Switzerland, not the plane carrying $400 million in cash going to Iran!”
While the Obama administration has denied the settlement reached with Iran at the Hague was related to the prisoners’ release, one of the four U.S. citizens the Iranians let go told Fox Business News their release was delayed by nearly a day at the airport in Tehran while officials waited for “another plane” to land.
Saeed Abedini, a Christian minister who was held by the Iranians for allegedly attempting to convert Muslims to Christianity, said the four American prisoners were brought to the airport to be released around 2 or 3 p.m., but were made to wait overnight, despite the plane and pilot being ready to leave.
“When I asked them why you don’t let us go — the plane was there, pilot was there, everyone was ready that we leave the country. They said they are waiting for another plane and so if that plane doesn’t come, we never let you go,” he said.
Abedini told Fox Business News the Iranian guards watching him never made mention of what that plane was carrying or any kind of money or payment from the United States. The group was eventually allowed to take off around 10 a.m. the next day after they were made to sleep at the airport. Abedini said he never asked again about whether the other flight they were waiting for had landed.