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Rubio, Colleagues Seek Answers on Obama’s Iran Prisoner Swap

May 5, 2017 | Press Releases

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL),  David Perdue (R-GA), James Inhofe (R-OK), Thom Tillis (R-NC), John Boozman (R-AR), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Mike Lee (R-UT), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Tim Scott (R-SC), and Luther Strange (R-AL) are seeking answers about the seven individuals granted clemency and the fourteen fugitives for whom charges were dropped as part of the prisoner exchange between the United States and Iran that was secretly negotiated by Obama Administration officials leading up to the Iran deal.  

“Based on new reports, we are concerned that President Obama and certain previous administration officials intentionally suppressed the seriousness of the charges against these individuals in order to garner public support for the nuclear deal with Iran, and we fear that these individuals may still pose a threat to the national security of the United States,” states the senators’ letter. “We have suspected for some time that the 7 individuals who received pardons or commuted sentences as part of this exchange were convicted of providing significant assistance to Iran’s nuclear program. A POLITICO investigation released on April 24, 2017 now confirms that several of these individuals were involved in aiding Iran’s illegal procurement network for microelectronics with applications for surface-to-air and cruise missiles and conspiring to supply Iran with satellite technology and hardware in violation of U.S. sanctions.”

The full text of the senators’ letter is below.

May 4, 2017

The Honorable Rex Tillerson
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State   
2201 C Street, NW  
Washington, D.C. 20520

The Honorable Jefferson Sessions
Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington DC 20530

The Honorable Steve Mnuchin
Secretary of the Treasury
U.S. Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Secretary Tillerson, Attorney General Sessions, and Secretary Mnuchin:

We write to request your assistance in providing Congress with more information regarding the Obama Administration’s decision to grant clemency to 7 individuals serving federal prison sentences for aiding Iran’s illicit procurement efforts and drop federal charges against 14 other fugitives as part of the prisoner exchange that took place between the United States and Iran on January 17, 2016. Based on new reports, we are concerned that President Obama and certain previous administration officials intentionally suppressed the seriousness of the charges against these individuals in order to garner public support for the nuclear deal with Iran, and we fear that these individuals may still pose a threat to the national security of the United States.

We have suspected for some time that the 7 individuals who received pardons or commuted sentences as part of this exchange were convicted of providing significant assistance to Iran’s nuclear program. A Politico investigation released on April 24, 2017, now confirms that several of these individuals were involved in aiding Iran’s illegal procurement network for microelectronics with applications for surface-to-air and cruise missiles and conspiring to supply Iran with satellite technology and hardware in violation of U.S. sanctions.

The aforementioned Politico investigation also indicates that Obama Administration officials may have intentionally kept secret certain court filings regarding ongoing federal investigations for the 14 fugitives evading prosecution for providing material assistance to Iran’s illicit procurement activities. Among these charges were conspiracy to procure components with nuclear applications (including U.S.-made sensors for Iran’s uranium enrichment centrifuges); seeking to lease aircraft for an Iranian airline that is known to support Iran’s terrorist proxy group Hezbollah; and smuggling U.S. military antennas through Asia for use in Iran.

These charges present a much greater security threat than mere “sanctions-related offenses” as one senior Obama administration official characterized them at the time of the swap.

Additionally, the Politico report suggests that, leading up to the nuclear deal with Iran, Obama Administration officials actively dismantled certain government initiatives, such as the National Counterproliferation Initiative, aimed at combating the security threat posed by illegal exports of restricted U.S. military and dual-use technology to foreign nations and terrorist organizations. Officials may also have gone so far as to direct federal employees to slow or stop certain significant investigations and prosecutions of Iranian procurement networks operating within the U.S.

Given that much of this information was previously kept from the American public, we respectfully request a report or an in-person briefing to Congress on this investigation at your earliest convenience. Specifically, we would appreciate information on the following topics:

  • Do we currently know the whereabouts of the 7 Iranian-Americans whose federal prison sentences were commuted as part of the January 2016 swap? If so, are they still assisting the Iranian government in advancing its nuclear program or supporting its terrorist proxies?
  • Do we currently know the whereabouts of the 14 fugitives whose federal charges were dropped as a part of the January 2016 swap? If so, are they still engaging in illicit activities on behalf of the Iranian government?
  • Are you able to provide Congress with more information regarding the Obama Administration’s decision to stop supplying the National Counter-proliferation Initiative with resources?
  • Is it true that certain Obama Administration officials may have been instructed to cease investigating certain elements of Iranian procurement networks operating in the U.S.? What counter-proliferation activities are we currently pursuing in order to combat Iran’s attempts to illicitly procure sanctioned goods?
  • In your review of U.S. policies toward Iran so far, have you found that any of the concerning behaviors outlined above have carried over from the Obama Administration?

We applaud President Trump’s commitment to curbing Iran’s destabilizing behavior in the region, and we appreciate any assistance the Administration can provide in exposing the truth about the circumstances surrounding this prisoner exchange.

Sincerely,