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GOP Eyes Lightning Strike on Obamacare to Kick Off Trump Era

by Steven Dennis and Billy House

Slim Senate majority leaves little wiggle room for passage
Some Republicans also want to end Planned Parenthood funding
Congressional Republicans are considering a lightning-strike rollback of Obamacare early next year to kick off the Donald Trump era, but first they have to agree on a plan limited enough to hold their caucus together.
Republicans won’t have much room for error to successfully repeal Obamacare, a top campaign promise of Trump and congressional Republicans. Even if they delay the repeal to allow more time to come up with a replacement, there will be pressure to use the legislative maneuver to push through other top GOP priorities, such as defunding Planned Parenthood.
But Senate Republicans would have to keep unified the 52 senators they expect to have when the new Congress convenes Jan. 3.
The Republican plan would take advantage of reconciliation, a budget-related mechanism to circumvent the 60-vote threshold in the Senate and prevent Democrats from being able to block legislation on their own. By striking early, the GOP could set itself up to invoke the same procedure again later in the year on a broader range of targets, including tax cuts.
The quick-strike bill, like one vetoed earlier this year by President Barack Obama, H.R. 3762, would likely set what amounts to an expiration date for the law’s financial underpinnings, leaving Congress to act at a later date on any replacement plan. That’s because more than six years after the law’s passage, Republicans still don’t have a consensus on how to replace Obamacare.
Early Win
But passing something in Trump’s first 100 days would allow Republicans to claim a big win early on, and conservatives are demanding the GOP deliver quickly.
“In order to give a clear and unambiguous message there’s a new occupant in the White House, one of the first things that should be done after the oath of office is passage of a bill through reconciliation repealing Obamacare and defunding Planned Parenthood,” Representative Trent Franks, an Arizona Republican, said Monday in a interview.
Franks, chairman of the House Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution, said he worries that some in Congress may seek more time to pass a bill. But he said the bill should be passed “almost the first moment after the oath of office.” Congress needs to send the message that when people vote based on promises made during a campaign, “that their votes will matter,” he said.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters Tuesday at a Washington Post breakfast that the first 100 days of Trump’s administration may include action on an Obamacare repeal, although “repealing is easier and faster” than replacing.
Having a “transition period” after a vote to repeal Obamacare would create a deadline for Congress to pass a replacement, he told reporters later Tuesday.
“If you have a date certain that something is going away” lawmakers will be motivated to pass a replacement, McCarthy said. Democrats who try to obstruct a replacement would risk being blamed for allowing Obamacare to lapse without a new plan, he said.
John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Senate Republican, said Monday that a Obamacare repeal is “going to be high on the list right when we come back.”
“It will be early, because we have to get that done,” Cornyn said. “January would suit me just fine.” He said Republicans may use the reconciliation procedure again later in the year to push through other matters, such as a tax overhaul.
‘Does No Harm’
Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, predicted during an interview with reporters that it would ultimately take “several years” to fully move to a new system with less federal control. He said that while Republicans can do some things with reconciliation, they’d ultimately need 60 votes.
“We need to gradually move those decisions back to states and to individuals and do it in a way that does no harm to people today,” the Tennessee Republican said.
“If we want a lasting solution eventually we’re going to have to have 60 votes in the Senate to get it.”
While a lightning-strike bill could be used for other priorities Republicans agree on, House Budget Chairman Tom Price of Georgia predicted in a recent interview it would be focused on something similar to the Obamacare repeal bill lawmakers have already passed because expanding it would require more time for committees to work.
“There is an opportunity there,” said Price, who Trump named Tuesday morning to be his secretary of Health and Human Services. “All this has to go through the process obviously.”
Democratic Ire
The idea for a lightning-strike bill has been percolating among Capitol Hill Republicans since long before the election, and it’s sure to provoke howls from Democrats.
But there’s not much they can do under the rules, beyond kick up a fuss. Senate Democrats’ leader-in-waiting, Chuck Schumer of New York, has said in several interviews that Republicans will rue the day they roll back the health law.
Representative Gerry Connolly, a Virginia Democrat on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said the law has worked in many important ways, including insuring millions of people and banning the denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions.
“But it’s not about facts or data or performance. It’s about political promises, and what they said they would deliver,” he said, adding that he doubts Trump and congressional Republicans could backtrack now politically.
Budget Resolution
To pull off a lightning strike, Republicans would have to pass a budget resolution first for the current budget year, which can take a week or two even if they are in agreement on what it should say. That resolution would set budget targets for the bill to follow. Then the committees would have to push through the actual repeal bill.
Republicans will also face internal fights if they end up keeping much of the law in its current form.
“When we all run for office, we run on repeal and replace with a free-market alternative,” said Representative Dave Brat, a conservative member of the Freedom Caucus from Virginia. “We did not run and say: ‘Let’s kind of soften this failed experiment down a little bit and keep most of the elements of socialized, top-down central planning in health care, along with 20 to 50 percent premium increases, and mandates forcing you to buy products by the federal government.’”
“We don’t need to be nasty, but we need to be rational and principled. And if we do not move forward with what we promised, the American people will rightly judge us as a failure, and a moral failure, as well, for not keeping our word,” said Brat.
But already there are some Republicans who are concerned about the possible scope of a reconciliation effort now that whatever they pass could actually become law.
Representative Dennis Ross, a Florida Republican who is a senior deputy whip, said Tuesday, “In my view, the repeal is not nearly as important as replacement.”
“To just say ‘repeal everything, and the mandates, without a replacement,’ then what?” he asked. “I don’t think we can do a repeal without a replacement. People are already in the system.”
One House centrist, who didn’t want to be identified by name in order to speak more freely, confirmed several members are voicing their opposition to leaders about voting again to defund Planned Parenthood in the reconciliation package.
But Speaker Paul Ryan suggested that GOP leaders plan to push ahead. During his most recent Capitol news conference on Nov. 17, he said, “We’ve already shown what we believe with respect to Planned Parenthood. We put a bill on President Obama’s desk in reconciliation. Our position has not changed.”
Talking With Trump
Republican leaders are also talking with Trump about how exactly to move forward.
“Obamacare has hurt families across the country through higher costs and less choice, and they made their disgust with the law known by voting for a candidate who ran on repeal,” said Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong.
“Speaker Ryan is in near-daily communication with President-elect Trump and Vice President-elect Pence about the agenda for next year,” she added. “We will share more when we have it.”
Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said they have nothing to announce yet on the schedule.
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“This continues to be a top priority for the Senate Finance Committee, which has kept a steady pace with its efforts to replace Obamacare with common-sense reforms that will lower costs and increase choice,” said Julia Lawless, spokeswoman for Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch of Utah. “The chairman is working with members to find the best way to move forward and is confident Congress will be prepared to act quickly next year.”
The reconciliation process can also be used on tax bills and to raise the federal debt limit, which must be done sometime in mid-2017. The last time Republicans had control of the House, Senate and the White House during George W. Bush’s administration, they pushed through an assortment of items via reconciliation packages, affecting taxes, Medicare, Medicaid, and numerous other programs.

Obama Fast Tracks 1,800 Muslims Migrants to the US That Australia Rejected

by Tim Brown

Well, Barack Hussein Obama Soetoro Sobarkah knows his time is short and he is probably more dangerous at this point than the entire eight years previous. Reports are now coming forward that he is attempting to fast track 1,800 Muslim migrants into the US that were rejected by Australia as illegal aliens.

WND reports:

Congress only learned of the deal through media reports two weeks ago and, according to a letter sent to administration officials by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., the deal is not only a matter of grave national security concern, but it could be illegal.

That’s because it amounts to an international treaty that Secretary of State John Kerry negotiated without consulting or notifying Congress according to Article II, Section II of the U.S. Constitution, according to the letter, sent by the two lawmakers Nov. 22 to Kerry and DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson.

Nearly 2,500 of them were interdicted off the coast of Australia in 2013 in accordance with that country’s policy of not accepting any of the wave of “refugees” streaming out of the Middle East. Unlike Europe, Australia effectively said “no” to the United Nations’ plan to open up Western democracies for millions of refugees fleeing not only the Syrian civil war but conflicts in Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan and even countries like Pakistan that are not at war. Germany alone has accepted 1.5 million Muslim refugees and subjected itself to thousands of sexual assaults on its women and girls.

But migrants who tried to get to Australia did not find a welcome mat. They were rescued by the Australian coast guard from their unsafe vessels and taken to off-shore camps on the Islands of Papua New Guinea and Nauru, where they have remained ever since. The United Nations stepped in and is looking for countries that will take the asylum seekers.

The U.N. found a taker in the Obama administration. Kerry confirmed he had reached a deal to take an undetermined number of the 2,465 aliens for permanent resettlement in the United States. Goodlatte and Grassley said they have since found out that up to 1,800 of the boat people could end up being distributed to U.S. cities and towns. But very little information has been released about the aliens or how many will end up in which American cities.
The letter by representatives read in part:

“This situation is concerning for many reasons. First, your departments negotiated an international agreement regarding refugees without consulting or notifying Congress. Such information was not disclosed to Congress during the annual refugee consultation that occurred on September 13, 2016, even though your staff confirmed that the agreement had, at the time, been negotiated ‘for months.’ Second, the agreement and the number of refugees to be resettled has been deemed by your departments as classified, thus the American people are left in the dark as to the rationale for this agreement. Third, the individuals who will be resettled are coming from countries of national security concern. In fact, two of the countries are officially designated by the State Department to be State Sponsors of Terrorism. Finally, it begs the question why Australia and other countries refuse to admit these individuals, what other countries are doing to help alleviate the situation, what kind of precedent this sets for future refugees interdicted at sea by Australian forces and prevented from entering Australia, and how a similar situation will be prevented in the future.”

Unbridled Corruption is the Hallmark of The Obama Legacy

by Peter Mullen
shutterstock_366639578-e1473972480405
It is now clear that the touchstone of the Obama administration is not transparency and the rule of law as once proclaimed. Even Democrats acknowledge the cascading chain of events that form the basis for this conclusion. During the first two years of President Obama’s first term and the dictatorship of the Democratic Party in both congressional houses, the public was lulled into a false sense of security with the passage of Obama Care. It was the masterstroke of the consolidation of power under this administration. Almost 1/6 of the nation’s economy fell victim to government regulation. We should not forget the empty promises of, “you can keep your doctor and you can keep your plan, period”. We should not forget the promise of transparency contradicted by the Speaker of the House when she said, “you need to pass this bill in order to read it”. The vote was historical. Not one Republican voted for this bill.

Health And Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius was charged with implementing the plan. New regulations that violated constitutional rights were implemented despite the admonitions of legal authorities and were later overturned by the Supreme Court. The rollout of the now infamous website was predictably a “train wreck” and can now claim the title of the most costly website in history.

A new “stimulus package” of close to $ 1 trillion was passed by the Congress to create “shovel ready jobs” that turned out to be “not so shovel ready”. Unemployment figures soared to over 10% along with the massive expense of unemployment compensation which was extended to 99 weeks. The damage of this policy cannot be measured in terms of workers’ feeling of self-worth, initiative, pride and accomplishment.

Next came the attack on Gas and Oil companies when the administration drove off-shore drilling from the Gulf of Mexico and placed restrictions on exploration on Federal lands. The EPA policy was summed up by Dallas Director Al Armendariz when he told staffers his philosophy was the same as the Roman army when they entered a Turkish town – they took the first 5 guys and crucified them and then everyone else fell into line.

After several replacements, IRS Commissioner Koskinen is under fire for lying to Congress regarding the Lois Lerner emails while at the same time President Obama proclaimed that, “there’s not a smidgen of evidence of corruption”, before seeing any evidence in the case.

The arrogance of this President is boundless. This is evidenced by his intrusion into the affairs of local police departments across the country based on the mere suggestion of impropriety. In each case, the law enforcement became the victim of his bias and the criminal perpetrator was treated unjustly. Police became the victims in the name of social justice in Cambridge, in Sanford, in Ferguson, in New York, in Baltimore, and in Dallas. It is hard to imagine that Attorney General Holder did anything but follow President Obama’s directions in these cases. As you may recall, AG Holder was found in contempt of Congress but was not referred to the FBI for lying under oath. It must be good to be the Sheriff.

Please recall the list of prominent administration leaders who have difficulty telling the truth to the American people: (1) Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who said that he would not apologize to Mitt Romney for saying he had not paid his taxes. Why? Because we won. (2) Ambassador Susan Rice said that in fact, the Benghazi attack resulted from a protest to a video on the Internet. (3) FBI Director James Comey who said that no reasonable prosecutor would indict former Secretary Clinton. (4) Jonathan Gruber, Presidential Advisor and Obama Care architect said that the people who voted for Obama care were stupid. (5) Secretary of Defense Panetta who announced that the United Nations authorized the American military to intervene in Libya. (6) AG Loretta Lynch announced that she had not seen the results of the FBI investigation of former Secretary Clinton, but would accept the recommendation of the FBI. (7) Intelligence Director Clapper told Congress that the NSA was not monitoring the phone calls of the public. (8) Kathleen Sibelius said that the website was ready. (9) IRS Commissioner Kostinen said that the Lois Lerner emails had been erased. (10) President Barack Obama said following the Benghazi attack that no act of terror will go unpunished; ISIS is the JV team; If Congress won’t act, I have a telephone and a pen; I regret the public misunderstood what I said about Obama Care. (11) Lastly, nominee for President of the United States, Hillary Clinton, said she installed the private server in her home for convenience. There was no classified information either sent or received. I received no emails marked classified. I turned over all State Department emails to the State Department. What difference does it make?

HIS LEGACY

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WHY DID OBAMA SEND ANOTHER $1.3 BILLION DOLLARS TO IRAN?!!!

by Bethany Blankly
obama-administration-refuses-to-give-congress-details-on-1-3-billion-dollar-payment-iran-933x445

When more people are unemployed and don’t have health insurance, when more veterans are suffering and dying in the U.S. than ever before, why is Barack Obama sending Iran another $1.3 billion?
The Washington Examiner reports that the State Department confirmed that it already paid Iran another $1.3 billion “to settle a failed arms deal from 1979.”

Yet, the State Department could not state who the U.S. government paid in the Iran government.

Nor could the State Department explain what form of payment was used. Did the U.S. send $1.3 billion to Iran in cash, check or money transfer?

Also, the State Department confirmed that it can’t guarantee that the $1.3 billion will not end up in the hands of known terrorists.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters:

“We can always hand it over to someone who can hand it over to the IRGC,” (Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps, which finances terrorism).
Obama argues that the U.S. owes Iran $1.7 billion plus interest to compensate Iran for weapons purchases it made in 1979 but never received because of the uprising and overthrowing of its previous government.

The first installment was the notoriously illegal shipment of $400 million in cash to Iran, which depending on the day, was reportedly a ransom payment for the release of American hostages.

The remaining money Obama says the U.S. owes Iran has not been sent, but will be, but the State Department doesn’t know how or when that will take place. It also doesn’t know who is receiving the payment in Iran.

Toner said:

“I’ll try my best to get details about that.

“I believe it was Iranian officials, Iranian government officials, I don’t know particularly who individually it was.”
Who paid the $400 million to Iran? Apparently someone Toner “was ‘certain’ that some in the U.S. knew, and said he just didn’t have that information.”

But, it wasn’t a ransom, because the U.S. owes Iran money.

This is blatant treason, but no one is doing anything about it in Congress. Where is Obama getting this money? How is he sending it without Congressional approval?

Hackers Say They Have Home Videos Of Huma And Hillary

You know, if I were going to commit an evil act I certainly would not let there be any recording of it. Because no matter what, things always end up in other people’s hands….A mysterious prediction made the rounds on 4chan and Reddit on Friday which predicted more hacked materials are about to be released.

The 4chan user, posting anonymously, said “SHTF (sh*t will hit the fan) in 48 hours.

download122

Huma Abedin is the leak.

“Private videos of Hillary shot by her to be released,” the post reads.

The post alleges they were videos of Hillary Clinton in meetings that “prove treason.”

The post claims Russia Today has the videos — given to them by J.A. (likely Julian Assange) — and will air them likely Saturday.

Huma-Abedin-Hillary-Clinton-Getty-1
The 4chan user, posting anonymously, said “SHTF (sh*t will hit the fan) in 48 hours.

“Huma Abedin is the leak.

“Private videos of Hillary shot by her to be released,” the post reads.

The post alleges they were videos of Hillary Clinton in meetings that “prove treason.”

The post claims Russia Today has the videos — given to them by J.A. (likely Julian Assange) — and will air them likely Saturday.

ObamaCare Conspiracy Theories Are Looking More Plausible By The Day

COMMENTARY
ObamaCare Conspiracy Theories Are Looking More Plausible By The Day
Three years ago, Sen. Orrin Hatch said ObamaCare would fail and Democrats would use that failure as an excuse to push for a single-payer system. (AP)
Three years ago, Sen. Orrin Hatch said ObamaCare would fail and Democrats would use that failure as an excuse to push for a single-payer system. (AP)
JOHN MERLINE5:00 AM ET
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“I will predict that within that year — now I may be wrong on this — but within the immediate future the Democrats are going to throw their hands in the air and say, ‘It’s not working. It’s unaffordable. And we have to go to a single-payer system.’ ”

That was Sen. Orrin Hatch in 2013, arguing that ObamaCare was designed to fail so that Democrats could use it as an excuse for the government to take over the entire insurance industry.

At the time, no respectable health care expert took Hatch — or any other conservative making such conspiratorial claims — seriously.

But today, Hatch is starting to look absolutely prescient, even if his timing was off.

Consider what is happening right now with ObamaCare. Enrollment is way below expectations. Insurers are putting in for double-digit rate hikes across the country, with some as high as 60%. UnitedHealth (UNH), Humana (HUM), and Blue Cross Blue Shield are pulling out of several ObamaCare markets, and most of the nonprofit co-ops created by ObamaCare have gone bust. As a result, the competition that was supposed to make ObamaCare exchanges the health care equivalent of Travelocity is evaporating.

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And Democrats? They are using these problems to push for a still bigger role for government in providing health insurance.

The latest blow to ObamaCare came from Aetna (AET), which had been promising to expand its reach to 20 states, but instead is staying in just four. As a result, at least one county, this one in Arizona, faces the possibility that no insurer will be offering a health plan in the ObamaCare exchange.

Even before Aetna’s decision, 664 counties — more than a quarter of all counties in the country — had just one insurer in their ObamaCare exchange, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation report. Given that Aetna is exiting more than 500 counties, that number will only increase.

Meanwhile, three entire states — Alaska, Alabama, and Wyoming — are down to one insurer, and there’s no contingency if one of those insurers were to pack up and leave.

That’s not to say all of ObamaCare is falling apart — only the heavily-regulated private sector piece is.

The law’s Medicaid expansion, in contrast, is doing fabulously well, with enrollment climbing by nearly 15.5 million between the summer of 2013 and January 2016. That’s a 27% increase. And that’s despite the fact that more than a dozen states refused to expand Medicaid eligibility.

So what’s Hillary Clinton’s answer to the failing private exchanges? Get more people on government insurance through what she calls the “public option.” This would be a government-run health care plan offered in ObamaCare exchanges across the country.

“The public option, Clinton says, “will strengthen competition and reduce costs.”

But wait a minute. The “public option” was pushed by liberal Democrats in 2009 when ObamaCare was being built, and it was rejected by centrists in the party because it looked too much like a steppingstone to single payer.

As a matter of fact, that was the idea behind the “public option” in the first place.

As Mark Schmitt explained in the liberal American Prospect, “The public option was part of a carefully thought out and deliberately funded effort (to convince the single-payer crowd) they could live with the public option as a kind of stealth single-payer.” The idea was that the public option would be able to undercut private plans, driving them all out of the exchanges.

But all those centrists Democrats who opposed the public option are gone from the Senate, and if Hillary Clinton gets elected with a more liberal Senate majority, the public option will likely be top of her agenda.

With the vast Medicaid expansion, and the public option (as well as Clinton’s proposal to expand Medicare), it’s not far-fetched to say that soon the only people covered by private insurance will be the diminishing number who get it through work. (ObamaCare was also designed to shrink employer-based health.)

So was this all in the grand plan when Democrats passed ObamaCare in 2010?

Sen. Harry Reid, all but admitted as much in late 2013, when in an appearance on PBS’ “Nevada Week in Review,” he said that “what we’ve done with ObamaCare is have a step in the right direction, but we’re far from having something that’s going to work forever.” When asked if that meant a single-payer system, Reid said, “Yes, yes. Absolutely, yes.”

Ezra Klein, who at the time was a health care reporter with the Washington Post, explained that the left was pursuing a “sneaky strategy” to “put in place something that over time the natural incentives … move it to single payer.”

Could it be that Hatch, Reid and Klein were all right? It sure seems like it these days.

If so, the only way to stop the onward march to single payer would be to repeal ObamaCare and start over with free-market based reforms.

Good luck with that if Hillary Clinton wins the election in November.

OBAMA’S IRANIAN STIMULUS PACKAGE

Iran-Cash-600-CI

U.S. Sent Cash to Iran as Americans Were Freed

BN-PF550_IRANCA_M_20160802190537
By JAY SOLOMON and CAROL E. LEE
Updated Aug. 3, 2016 12:01 a.m. ET
2208 COMMENTS
WASHINGTON—The Obama administration secretly organized an airlift of $400 million worth of cash to Iran that coincided with the January release of four Americans detained in Tehran, according to U.S. and European officials and congressional staff briefed on the operation afterward.

Wooden pallets stacked with euros, Swiss francs and other currencies were flown into Iran on an unmarked cargo plane, according to these officials. The U.S. procured the money from the central banks of the Netherlands and Switzerland, they said.

The money represented the first installment of a $1.7 billion settlement the Obama administration reached with Iran to resolve a decades-old dispute over a failed arms deal signed just before the 1979 fall of Iran’s last monarch, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, center, with family members in Germany after his release from prison in Iran in January. ENLARGE
Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, center, with family members in Germany after his release from prison in Iran in January. PHOTO: KAI PFAFFENBACH/REUTERS
The settlement, which resolved claims before an international tribunal in The Hague, also coincided with the formal implementation that same weekend of the landmark nuclear agreement reached between Tehran, the U.S. and other global powers the summer before.

“With the nuclear deal done, prisoners released, the time was right to resolve this dispute as well,” President Barack Obama said at the White House on Jan. 17—without disclosing the $400 million cash payment.

Senior U.S. officials denied any link between the payment and the prisoner exchange. They say the way the various strands came together simultaneously was coincidental, not the result of any quid pro quo.

“As we’ve made clear, the negotiations over the settlement of an outstanding claim…were completely separate from the discussions about returning our American citizens home,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said. “Not only were the two negotiations separate, they were conducted by different teams on each side, including, in the case of The Hague claims, by technical experts involved in these negotiations for many years.”

But U.S. officials also acknowledge that Iranian negotiators on the prisoner exchange said they wanted the cash to show they had gained something tangible.

Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas and a fierce foe of the Iran nuclear deal, accused President Barack Obama of paying “a $1.7 billion ransom to the ayatollahs for U.S. hostages.”

“This break with longstanding U.S. policy put a price on the head of Americans, and has led Iran to continue its illegal seizures” of Americans, he said.

MORE

Iran Approves New Oil-Field Contracts to Woo Western Investors
Since the cash shipment, the intelligence arm of the Revolutionary Guard has arrested two more Iranian-Americans. Tehran has also detained dual-nationals from France, Canada and the U.K. in recent months.

At the time of the prisoner release, Secretary of State John Kerry and the White House portrayed it as a diplomatic breakthrough. Mr. Kerry cited the importance of “the relationships forged and the diplomatic channels unlocked over the course of the nuclear talks.”

Meanwhile, U.S. officials have said they were certain Washington was going to lose the arbitration in The Hague, where Iran was seeking more than $10 billion, and described the settlement as a bargain for taxpayers.

Iranian press reports have quoted senior Iranian defense officials describing the cash as a ransom payment. The Iranian foreign ministry didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The $400 million was paid in foreign currency because any transaction with Iran in U.S. dollars is illegal under U.S. law. Sanctions also complicate Tehran’s access to global banks.

“Sometimes the Iranians want cash because it’s so hard for them to access things in the international financial system,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on the January cash delivery. “They know it can take months just to figure out how to wire money from one place to another.”

The Obama administration has refused to disclose how it paid any of the $1.7 billion, despite congressional queries, outside of saying that it wasn’t paid in dollars. Lawmakers have expressed concern that the cash would be used by Iran to fund regional allies, including the Assad regime in Syria and the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, which the U.S. designates as a terrorist organization.

MULTITRACK DIPLOMACY

July 2012 U.S. and Iran begin secret negotiations in Oman to resolve the nuclear dispute.
September 2013 President Barack Obama has 15-minute phone call with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
November U.S., Iran and world powers reach interim nuclear agreement that includes release of $700 million a month in frozen Iranian assets.
November 2014 Swiss invite Iran and U.S. to secret talks aimed at freeing Americans jailed in Tehran.
July 2015 Iran, U.S. and other powers reach landmark nuclear agreement to constrain Tehran’s nuclear program.
Jan. 16, 2016 Iran, U.S. and world powers formally implement nuclear deal.
Jan. 17 White House and State Department simultaneously announce prisoner swap and settlement of financial dispute that awards $1.7 billion to Tehran. Iran announced them separately.
July Iran announces arrest of third Iranian-American, after acknowledging two others held.
The U.S. and United Nations believe Tehran is subsidizing the Assad regime’s war in Syria through cash and energy shipments. Iran has acknowledged providing both financial and military aid to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and deploying Iranian soldiers there.

But John Brennan, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, said last week that there was evidence much of the money Iran has received from sanctions relief was being used for development projects. “The money, the revenue that’s flowing into Iran is being used to support its currency, to provide moneys to the departments and agencies, build up its infrastructure,” Mr. Brennan said at a conference in Aspen, Colo.

The U.S. and Iran entered into secret negotiations to secure the release of Americans imprisoned in Iran in November 2014, according to U.S. and European officials. Switzerland’s foreign minister, Didier Burkhalter, offered to host the discussions.

The Swiss have represented the U.S.’s diplomatic interests in Iran since Washington closed its embassy in Tehran following the 1979 hostage crisis.

Iranian security services arrested two Iranian-Americans during President Obama’s first term. In July 2014, the intelligence arm of Iran’s elite military unit, the Revolutionary Guard, detained the Washington Post’s Tehran bureau chief, Jason Rezaian, and charged him with espionage.

A fourth Iranian-American was arrested last year. A former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent, Robert Levinson, disappeared on the Iranian island of Kish in 2007. His whereabouts remain unknown.

The Swiss channel initially saw little activity, according to these officials. But momentum shifted after Tehran and world powers forged a final agreement in July 2015 to constrain Iran’s nuclear program in return for the lifting of most international sanctions. A surge of meetings then took place in the Swiss lakeside city of Geneva in November and December.

The U.S. delegation was led by a special State Department envoy, Brett McGurk, and included representatives from the Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to U.S. and European officials. The Iranian team was largely staffed by members of its domestic spy service, according to U.S. officials.

The discussions, held at the InterContinental Hotel, initially focused solely on a formula whereby Iran would swap the Americans detained in Tehran for Iranian nationals held in U.S. jails, U.S. officials said. But around Christmas, the discussions dovetailed with the arbitration in The Hague concerning the old arms deal.

The Iranians were demanding the return of $400 million the Shah’s regime deposited into a Pentagon trust fund in 1979 to purchase U.S. fighter jets, U.S. officials said. They also wanted billions of dollars as interest accrued since then.

President Obama approved the shipment of the $400 million. But accumulating so much cash presented a logistical and security challenge, said U.S. and European officials. One person briefed on the operation joked: “You can’t just withdraw that much money from ATMs.”

Mr. Kerry and the State and Treasury departments sought the cooperation of the Swiss and Dutch governments. Ultimately, the Obama administration transferred the equivalent of $400 million to their central banks. It was then converted into other currencies, stacked onto the wooden pallets and sent to Iran on board a cargo plane.

On the morning of Jan. 17, Iran released the four Americans: Three of them boarded a Swiss Air Force jet and flew off to Geneva, with the fourth returning to the U.S. on his own. In return, the U.S. freed seven Iranian citizens and dropped extradition requests for 14 others.

U.S. and European officials wouldn’t disclose exactly when the plane carrying the $400 million landed in Iran. But a report by an Iranian news site close to the Revolutionary Guard, the Tasnim agency, said the cash arrived in Tehran’s Mehrabad airport on the same day the Americans departed.

Revolutionary Guard commanders boasted at the time that the Americans had succumbed to Iranian pressure. “Taking this much money back was in return for the release of the American spies,” said Gen. Mohammad Reza Naghdi, commander of the Guard’s Basij militia, on state media.

Among the Americans currently being held are an energy executive named Siamak Namazi and his 80-year old father, Baqer, according to U.S. and Iranian officials. Iran’s judiciary spokesman last month confirmed Tehran had arrested the third American, believed to be a San Diego resident named Reza “Robin” Shahini.

Friends and family of the Namazis believe the Iranians are seeking to increase their leverage to force another prisoner exchange or cash payment in the final six months of the Obama administration. Mr. Kerry and other U.S. officials have been raising their case with Iranian diplomats, U.S. officials say.

Iranian officials have demanded in recent weeks the U.S. return $2 billion in Iranian funds that were frozen in New York in 2009. The Supreme Court recently ruled that the money should be given to victims of Iranian-sponsored terror attacks.

Members of Congress are seeking to pass legislation preventing the Obama administration from making any further cash payments to Iran. One of the bills requires for the White House to make public the details of its $1.7 billion transfer to Iran.

“President Obama’s…payment to Iran in January, which we now know will fund Iran’s military expansion, is an appalling example of executive branch governance,” said Sen. James Lankford (R., Okla.), who co-wrote the bill. “Subsidizing Iran’s military is perhaps the worst use of taxpayer dollars ever by an American president.”

Write to Jay Solomon at jay.solomon@wsj.com and Carol E. Lee at carol.lee@wsj.com

Texas Makes Huge Move Against Black Lives Matter

BLK

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and the Lone Star State lawmakers are cracking down after recent recent attacks carried out against police officers.

Abbott on Monday announced the Police Protection Act, which
 aims to strengthen penalties for crimes committed against police officers.

“At a time when law enforcement officers increasingly come under assault simply because of the job they hold, Texas must send a resolute message that the state will stand by the men and women who serve and protect our communities,” Abbott said in a news release, according to KTBC.
Abbott said that while Texas and the nation continued to mourn the heroes lost in Dallas, it was time for Texans to unite and say, “No more.”

“The men and women in uniform risk their lives every day to protect the public, and it is time we show them the state of Texas has their back,” Abbott said in the release.

“Texas will no longer tolerate disrespect for those who serve, and it must be made to clear to anyone targeting our law enforcement officials that their actions will be met with severe justice.”

The Police Protection Act will extend hate crime protections to law enforcement officers and increase criminal penalties crimes committed against law enforcement.

The act also aims to create a culture of respect for law enforcement that includes organizing a campaign to educate youth on the value police officers bring to their communities.

Currently, assault with bodily injury to a public servant is punishable as a Class A misdemeanor. Under Abbott’s proposal, the penalty against such an assault would increase to a 2nd degree felony.

The measure has been met with approval form several law enforcement organizations. Ray Hunt, President of the Houston Police Officers Association, said he was encouraged by the legislation. Ron Pinkston, President, Dallas Police Association, said the Dallas Police Association applauded the governor. Grimes County Sheriff Donald Sowell, president of the Sheriff’s Association of Texas, said his organization was pleased to see the governor move to protect law enforcement officers.

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