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Trump says he watched video of $400M Iran payment, but it was actually prisoner release

By Eric DuVall
Trump says he watched video of $400M Iran payment, but it was actually prisoner release
Republican presidential acndidate Donald Trump makes a campaign appearance in Ashburn, Va., on Tuesday. Trump on Wednesday said he saw footage showing a $400 million cash transfer from the United States to Iran, footage that was actually of a prisoner release in Switzerland. Photo by Ron Sachs/UPI | License Photo

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Aug. 4 (UPI) -- At a rally in Florida, Donald Trump told supporters he had viewed Iranian government footage of a $400 million cash drop from the United States government -- footage his campaign later said was actually file footage aired in a Fox News report of a prisoner release in January.

At issue is a report in The Wall Street Journal, detailing some $400 million in cash handed over by the U.S. government to Iranian officials. The exchange came in the wake of Iran's agreeing to a deal limiting its nuclear weapons program and the same day Iran released four U.S. citizens being held captive.

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Trump and other Republicans said the cash transfer was tantamount to a ransom payment in exchange for the prisoners' release. The Obama administration has flatly denied the accusation, saying the $400 million sent to the Iranians was the first payment settling an unrelated decades-old legal claim the Iranian government filed against the United States in international court at the Hague.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Iran's former ally government under the Shah had paid the United States $400 million in 1979 in exchange for military equipment. After the Shah was toppled in the Iranian revolution later that year, the United States withheld the equipment and never returned the money.

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The reason the payment was made in foreign currency, as The Wall Street Journal reported, was because the two nations still do not have "a banking relationship" due to economic sanctions in place, making a wire transfer between the two nations' treasuries impossible, Earnest said.

The $400 million was the first installment in the $1.7 billion settlement -- the original payment plus interest accrued since 1979 -- to which both countries agreed.

That explanation, which was first made in January when the settlement was announced, did not wash with Trump, however. On Wednesday, Trump explained in significant detail footage he said showed the cash handoff taking place. Speaking in Daytona Beach, Fla., Trump said he was stunned by the footage, which he said the Iranians shot and subsequently released to embarrass the United States.

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"Remember this: Iran -- I don't think you heard this anywhere but here -- Iran provided all of that footage, the tape of taking that money off the airplane," Trump said at the rally. "Right?"

"Now, here's the amazing thing: Over there, where that plane landed, top secret, you don't have a lot of paparazzi. You know, the paparazzi doesn't do so well over there, right?" Trump said, seeming to refer to Iran and not Geneva, Switzerland, where the footage of the prisoner release was recorded. "And 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? 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."

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The Washington Post reports social media quickly questioned what the candidate was talking about. Initially, some assumed it was information Trump had been given during the classified intelligence briefings presidential candidates get from the government.

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Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort said that was not the case because the briefings have not started yet.

The Post asked Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks whether the video of the prisoners' arrival was what Trump was describing.

"Yes," Hicks responded. "Merely the B-roll footage included in every broadcast."

The footage was captured by independent media and shows the four prisoners exiting a Swiss airplane in Geneva. It does not show palates of cash or any significant cargo being removed from the plane.

U.S. intelligence sources confirmed to CBS News they are not aware of any video footage existing of the cash drop-off.

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