The $400 million cash payment to the Iranians that coincided with the release of four detained Americans in January was met with objections by the Department of Justice. Why? Well, because it'll look like a ransom payment (via WSJ):
John Carlin, a Senate-confirmed administration appointee, raised concerns when the State Department notified Justice officials of its plan to deliver to Iran a planeful of cash, saying it would be viewed as a ransom payment, these people said. A number of other high-ranking Justice officials voiced similar concerns as the negotiations proceeded, they said.
The U.S. paid Iran $400 million in cash on Jan. 17 as part of a larger $1.7 billion settlement of a failed 1979 arms deal between the U.S. and Iran that was announced that day. Also on that day, Iran released four detained Americans in exchange for the U.S.’s releasing from prison—or dropping charges against—Iranians charged with violating sanctions laws. U.S. officials have said the swap was agreed upon in separate talks.
The objection of senior Justice Department officials was that Iranian officials were likely to view the $400 million payment as ransom, thereby undercutting a longstanding U.S. policy that the government doesn’t pay ransom for American hostages, these people said. The policy is based on a concern that paying ransom could encourage more Americans to become targets for hostage-takers.
But the president said that this isn’t a ransom, so we can just move on from this, right?
Wrong. GOP senators are already asking questions about the internal dynamics of the transfer, asking Secretary of State John Kerry to offer more details. But Obama said that it was good that the U.S. and Iran had a dialogue over these prisoner exchanges while discussing the nuclear deal, the latter of which has been fraught with reports of the terror sponsor repeatedly skirting the provisions of the agreement. What do you expect from a state sponsor of terrorism that still props up Hezbollah and Syria’s Assad.
Over at Hot Air, Ed mentioned that perception is everything—and the DOJ knew how this would look to the public. He also said that the article undercut the whole notion that everyone was unified in this decision. Liberals, it’s okay to never engage your enemies. If Obama has shown anything with this strategy, it’s only ended in disaster on the big-ticket items: Syria, Libya, Yemen, and Iran.