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Tuesday, August 23, 2016
Why did the State Department draw 13 payments from the Treasury one
cent below a hundred million bucks?
You may recall the federal crime called "structuring." Former speaker of the House Denny Hastert is currently behind bars for violating it. Structuring consists of managing the amount of bank transactions so as to keep each below the ten-thousand-dollar level that would necessitate reporting the transaction to the feds, who are eager to capture drug dealers. Hastert was caught because he was trying to keep his blackmail payments secret.
So what is going on with the State Department, acting the same way, but with amounts ten thousand times higher? Claudia Rosett reports: in the New York Sun:
Congressional investigators trying to uncover the trail of $1.3 billion in payments to Iran might want to focus on 13 large, identical sums that Treasury paid to the State Department under the generic heading of settling "Foreign Claims."
The 13 payments when added to the $400 million that the administration now concedes it shipped to the Iranian regime in foreign cash would bring the payout to the $1.7 billion that President Obama and Secretary Kerry announced on January 17. That total was to settle a dispute pending for decades before the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal in at The Hague. (snip)
Could this have been drawn from a fund bankrolled by American taxpayers and housed at Treasury, called the Judgment Fund? And why were the 13 payments in amounts of one cent less than $100,000,000?
The Judgment Fund appears to be something of a slush fund, supposedly available to pay foreign claims against the United States, but also bypassing the need for congressional approval of a payment.
Unquestionably, the amounts were "structured" – deliberately kept beneath a landmark sum. The question is why. What, if any, regulations were circumvented?
Writing at the Weekly Standard, Lee Smith notices that the disclosures by Rosett seem to indicate that Obama was lying:
As the Wall Street Journalreported earlier this month, the $400 million was paid in cash. And that's because President Obama explained, "we couldn't send them a check and we couldn't wire the money."
Rosett's detective work suggests that Obama was lying. It seems likely that the $1.3 billion was wired only a few days after the cash was delivered on January 17. Rosett's reporting suggests that the sum was paid through the Judgment Fund, which, according to a Treasury Department website, writes Rosett, is "a permanent, indefinite appropriation" used to pay monetary awards against U.S. government agencies in cases "where funds are not legally available to pay the award from the agency's own appropriations." (snip)
"State has refused to disclose even such basic information as the date on which Iran took receipt of the $1.3 billion. As recently as August 4, a State spokesman told the press: 'I don't have a date of when that took place.'"
However, last week Obama administration officials briefed reporters to explain that, according to Associated Press reporter Bradley Klapper's Twitter feed, the $1.3 billion has already been paid. And, they said, paid "through [the Department of] Treasury" in an "'above-board way.'"
It's not clear what the senior administration officials meant by "above-board" but as the Judgment Fund website explains, the "preferred method" for payments is "by electronic fund transfer."
If, as Rosett's story suggests, the 13 payments the Judgment Fund sent to the State Department represents the $1.3 billion in interest, the administration has some questions to answer. Was the interest paid in cash like the $400 million, or by wire? If the latter, why was the $400 million paid in cash?