U.S. national security officials are literally laughing at Donald Trump’s claim that he watched a “top secret” Iranian military-produced video showing its government scurrying to grab pallets filled with hundreds of millions of dollars.
“It didn’t happen,” one U.S. official said. “That was not part of any briefing.”
The other just chuckled at the proposition.
On Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. had secretly paid the Iranians $400 million in various currencies around January at the same time that Iran released four Americans held in Tehran.
Trump said he watched it unfold.
“I’ll never forget the scene this morning,” Trump told the crowd on Wednesday. “Iran—I don’t think you’ve heard this anywhere but here—Iran provided all of that footage, the tape, of taking that money off that airplane.”
There is just one problem. The U.S. had no way to directly deliver cold hard currency to Iran. Rather, the pallets referred to in the Journal piece traveled to Switzerland and the money was eventually transferred to Iran. That is, no pallets ever landed in Iran, a U.S. official told The Daily Beast.
And yet on Wednesday, while speaking to a crowd in Daytona Beach, Florida, Trump said he watched video filmed by the Iranian military in an effort to “embarrass” the United States.
“Over there, where that plane landed, top secret, they don’t have a lot of paparazzi, you know,” Trump explained. “The paparazzi doesn’t do so well over there.” But “they have a perfect tape, obviously done by a government camera, and the tape is of the people taking the money off the plane. It’s a military tape. It’s a tape that was a perfect angle, nice and steady.”
Trump did not mention the tape in a second speech that day in Jacksonville.
The payment has sparked questions over whether the Obama administration violated its own policy of not paying for hostages. The administration has said it was part of a $1.7 billion payment to Iran to resolve a decades-old failed arms dispute.
So where did Trump concoct such a tale? After all, the campaign has said he has yet to receive daily classified briefings afforded to presidential candidates.
Well, it turns out he saw it on TV. Trump spokesperson Hope Hicks admitted to The Washington Post that footage Trump was referring to was not, in fact, top secret. It was b-roll from a Fox News segment.
That wasn’t exactly a reassuring answer for members of the U.S. national security community who are already nervous that Trump could say or tweet classified information. Rather it confirmed their already existing fears that sensitive information could be mistreated—and now made up all together.
And it comes during what has arguably been the worst week of Trump’s presidential bid. He has battled with the family of a soldier killed in Iraq, a crying baby, and, reportedly, members of the Republican Party leadership. But no one is willing to declare his run over, as the traditional rules of American politics, so far, have yet to undo Trump.
But if Trump was somehow embarassed by being caught in a lie, he didn’t show it on Thursday. In fact, he revisted the subject at a rally.
“It’s interesting because a tape was made,” Trump claimed. “Right, you saw that with the airplane coming in? Nice plane. And the airplane coming in and the money coming off, I guess, right? That was given to us—has to be—by the Iranians. And you know why the tape was given to us? Because they want to embarrass our country. They want to embarrass our country. And they want to embarrass our president.”