That $1.7 billion was Iranian assets frozen by sanctions in the 1980’s and returned after we lost in arbitration in international court. The transfer of the money was publicly announced months before any prisoner swap.
A longer explanation
In 1979, Iran’s then-monarch Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi paid $400 million to the United States government to purchase military parts. But that year’s revolution toppled the American-back Shah, the military parts were never delivered, and we kept the money.
To regain its funds, Iran filed a claim against the United States in 1981 in the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal, which adjudicates disputes between the two nations. The body, located at the Hague, was established amid negotiations to end the 1979-81 Iran hostage crisis, in which pro-revolution students took over the U.S. embassy in Tehran.
On the same day the President Obama made a statement regarding the settlement, “Since 1981, after our nations severed diplomatic relations, we’ve worked through a international tribunal to resolve various claims between our countries. The United States and Iran are now settling a longstanding Iranian government claim against the United States government. Iran will be returned its own funds, including appropriate interest, but much less than the amount Iran sought. “
Let’s do a quick rundown of where we are ahead of Trump’s prime-time address, which is being written by Stephen Miller and many believe will be about his claims of a “crisis” at the southern border.
Donald Trump is a Racist
We need to get this out of the way, right away. Ask yourself, why are we only talking about a border wall with Mexico and not Canada?
If drug flow into the United States is your main concern, and if there are three main drug corridors on our southern border, but with Canada there are five main drug corridors, why are we only talking about a border wall with Mexico?
Donald Trump has already told you he thinks Hispanic countries are “shithole countries,” and that he would like to see more European immigrants.
And the over 100 instances we’ve cataloged of racist comments, racist policies, hiring known white supremacists into his administration, retweeting known white supremacists, retweeting those same known white supremacists again, and defending white supremacists as “very fine people.”
Donald Trump is a racist.
White House Will Claim a Crisis at the Southern Border
During the shutdown negotiations, Donald Trump’s administration has tried to find numbers that look scary because they are numbers and pass them off as their rationale for a southern border wall.
Fox News (surprisingly) already debunked the Trump administration’s claim that a big number of 4,000 terrorists entered the United States through the southern border. The real number is six suspected terrorists, who were all let go.
In a press conference with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, where Trump took credit for a shutdown, Trump claimed ten terrorists were captured at the Mexican border. That was a lie.
Trump’s own Department of Homeland Security couldn’t find that number:
Instead, DHS would only say that it apprehended, on average, ten “known or suspect[ed] terrorists” per day who attempted to enter the country “by air, sea, or land” from October 2017 through September 2018.
To be clear: An average of ten “known or suspected” terrorists who tried to enter the country anywhere by any means, is not “Ten terrorists were captured at the southern border.”
“In FY17, CBP recorded the lowest level of illegal cross-border migration on record, as measured by apprehensions along the border and inadmissible encounters at U.S. ports of entry,”
In that report, it’s very clear illegal border crossings haven’t changed in over five years, and down 80% from their peak of 1.6 million crossings back in 2000.
Table 1: Southwest Border Apprehensions and Individuals “Inadmissible” at Ports of Entry Compared by Fiscal Year
And Trump’s own Department of Justice hasn’t prosecuted a single terrorist from the southern border.
If there was any credible threat we would have seen thousands, as the Trump administration has claimed, of terrorists being tried openly in a public court of law. But there hasn’t been any prosecutions because there hasn’t been any terrorists.
According to Trump’s own Department of Homeland Security the number of terrorists entering the United States via Mexico is a whopping zero per ever (emphasis added):
At year’s end there was no credible evidence indicating that international terrorist groups have established bases in Mexico, worked with Mexican drug cartels, or sent operatives via Mexico into the United States.
You’ve heard this talking point a lot from Republican media, “Walls work.” They’ll point to Jerusalem as their prime example.. which may not be the best example.
But they’ll conveniently neglect to mention the Maginot Line, the Great Wall of China, and thousands of other walls that didn’t work throughout history including the Berlin Wall, which one famous Republican once asked for it to be taken down.
The reality is, if they are looking for a physical barrier to stop illegal immigration… we already have that. From PolitiFact:
The Secure Fence Act of 2006, which was passed by a Republican Congress and signed by President George W. Bush, authorized about 700 miles of fencing along certain stretches of land between the border of the United States and Mexico.
The act also authorized the use of more vehicle barriers, checkpoints and lighting to curb illegal immigration, and the use of advanced technology such as satellites and unmanned aerial vehicles.
At the time the act was being considered, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer were all members of the Senate. (Schumer of New York is now the Senate minority leader.)
Obama, Clinton, Schumer and 23 other Democratic senators voted in favor of the act when it passed in the Senate by a vote of 80 to 19.
So much for Democrats being against border security.
But this all begs the question, if we already have a physical barrier, shouldn’t that already satisfy the Trump need for one? What’s the point of spending money to build physical barrier if there is already a physical barrier?
The reality is it doesn’t make sense, it’s not practical and it was never meant to be. In 2014 when Trump was exploring a presidential run after leading the racist “birther” movement, his aides Roger Stone recognized that Trump isn’t the smartest cookie in the box and designed “the wall” as a memory trick so Trump can stay on message about immigration.
As Mr. Trump began exploring a presidential run in 2014, his political advisers landed on the idea of a border wall as a mnemonic device of sorts, a way to make sure their candidate — who hated reading from a script but loved boasting about himself and his talents as a builder — would remember to talk about getting tough on immigration.
So there is no evidence, no research went into this idea, it was just a way for a stupid man to remember his racist talking points.
The Government Shutdown is Trump’s Fault and Republicans Can End It At Any Time
Back in December, the Republicans, Democrats, and Trump and the White House all agreed on a budget deal that would fund the government until February. The Senate brought the budget deal to the floor for a vote on December 19th and unanimously passed the bill 100 – 0.
The next day Paul Ryan and the House were all set to vote on the same budget deal until Donald Trump was catching up on cable news during his nine hours of “Executive Time” and saw pundits like Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh raking him over the coals for not securing a border wall in the two years Republicans had total control of all three branches of government, then backed out of the budget deal causing parts of the government to shut down.
Once Democrats were sworn into office, after historic wins where Trump’s immigration and wall policies were the central argument, the first bill to pass was the same Senate bill that passed 100 – 0 a few weeks prior.
Now all Mitch McConnell in the Senate has to do is bring up that same budget to vote again, which he already knows he has the votes for, having previously passed unanimously, but refuses. His reasoning is he won’t bring a bill to the floor that he knows the president won’t sign.
Mitch McConnell is obstructing again.
Donald Trump would most likely veto any spending bill that does not have funding for his border wall, but the United States Constitution is very clear, you only need a 2/3rds majority to override a presidential veto. That bill previously passed unanimously. It has the votes. McConnell is just doing what he does best, obstruction.
So Republicans can reopen the government. They just don’t want to because it would make their president look bad. The reality is Republicans in Congress, which is a co-equal branch of government, can open the government at any time.
Instead they’re trying to blame it on the Democrats, even though it was Donald Trump who went back on the deal. It was Donald Trump who said he would “proudly” hold the mantle. It was Donald Trump for months would say at rallies “we could use a good shutdown.”
Trump is a racist. The idea for the border wall was nothing more than a gimmick created for a candidate who had zero interest in policy. We already have physical barriers at our border. And Republicans can open the government at any time.
At a campaign-style rally in Melbourne, Florida (on his way to his 3rd vacation in 3 weeks) as his proof to support his xenophobic and anti-immigration policies, Donald Trump made a claim that Sweden experienced a terrorist attack the previous day in direct result of accepting an influx of refugees escaping war.
However it turned out, there was no terrorist attack in Sweden or anywhere else in Europe that day, Trump simply misinterpreted something he saw on television and presented it as fact.
While the President of the United States creating fake news is indeed a problem, there is something else problematic this is surrounding the President’s lies. And that is the rush of pro-Trump media sites to create news reports in order to support the already debunked false claims of the President. There is a word for this, “propaganda.”
propaganda – noun – Information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view.
–Oxford English Dictionary
The meaning of propaganda has been watered down recently, because it gets thrown around too easily in social media in an attempt to discredit a news story someone doesn’t like, so when we see it actually occurring we may not recognize that it is happening.
But watch pro-Trump news sites like Breitbart and Fox News scramble every time Trump makes a ridiculous or unsubstantiated claim, even long after facts are presented that absolutely refute what was said. Like when they still stand up and say “No, the President was really telling the truth!!! Sweden is a living hell!!!”
It’s their job to “cover” for him, to make the case that, “Trump said X but he really means Y,” or just to outright lie for him.
We saw this all throughout his campaign. Trump would say things like he wants to ban all Muslims or Obama founded ISIS, and these sites would trip over themselves to find a way to make him appear less controversial, look for quotes out of contexts to support their cause, or to say he really didn’t literally mean what he said.
To highlight how this is happening, we’ll first walk through the series of events surrounding Trump’s false Sweden claims, then we’ll take a look at an actual propaganda article from Fox News.
First, Trump Shouted a Lie
During his rally, Donald Trump referred to several countries that have taken in a disproportionate number of refugees and that have recently been the target of attacks.
“You look at what’s happening in Germany. You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden! Who would believe this? Sweden, they took in large numbers, they are having problems like they never thought possible.”
However the claim sent pundits and political observers scrambling to find evidence of any such incident in Sweden — and they came up empty.
There was, of course, no terrorist or refugee-related incident in Sweden the previous day, as Swedes helpfully pointed out.
Then Trump Claimed a Lie Was Never Made
So Trump offered clarification on his remarks over Twitter, saying it was from a Fox News story he just watched earlier that day:
My statement as to what's happening in Sweden was in reference to a story that was broadcast on @FoxNews concerning immigrants & Sweden.
The Fox News segment Trump was referring to was an interview between host Tucker Carlson and documentarian and media personality Ami Horowitz that aired Friday night. Horowitz presented a clip from a film documenting alleged violence committed by refugees in Sweden, and the segment extensively referenced an alleged crime surge in Sweden and its links to immigrants.
In response Trump sent out a tweet accusing journalists, who he has recently labeled “an enemy of the people“, of saying large scale immigration in Sweden is not a problem. And the “real news” is the influx of migrants from other countries is causing a crime wave.
Give the public a break – The FAKE NEWS media is trying to say that large scale immigration in Sweden is working out just beautifully. NOT!
The Fox News article makes the case that Trump was actually telling the truth because a single police investigator in Orebro, Sweden named Peter Springare wrote a super-racist Facebook post a few weeks prior which claimed his five-day caseload was, “Mohammed, Mahmod, Ali, again and again.”
Springare’s post listed five rapes, three assaults, a pair of extortions, blackmail, an attempted murder, violence against police and a robbery. According to Springare, the suspects were all from Muslim-majority countries – Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia and Turkey – save for one Swedish man nabbed in a drug-related case.
Just to be clear, Fox News’ proof was just one guy’s experience over less than a week, and taking him at his word no less. Seeing that Sweden employs about 29,000 police officers who report on crimes year-round, that is a really small sample size they are holding up in order to make your case.
If Fox News wanted to be honest and provide quality reporting, they would have presented their viewers with actual data from the The Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention, known there as Brå.
If we take into account the, preliminary figures for 2016 which show that offenses against individual persons was up slightly, but still at the same levels as recent years, we can clearly see crime in Sweden has remained largely the same, even as more immigrants are living in the country.
What Fox News did was take the racist ramblings of ONE police officer over the course of a few days (without any evidence) and hold that up to ALL police officers in Sweden over the course of a decade and say, “these two are equal.”
They are not equal.
Fox News was dishonest with their viewers by ignoring the vast body of evidence that disagreed with their conclusions in order to push a false narrative to their viewers that Donald Trump really knew what he was talking about.