GOP senator: Obama 'hid' Iran payment from Congress
© Getty Images

Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteThe Hill's Morning Report: Koch Network re-evaluating midterm strategy amid frustrations with GOP Audit finds US Defense Department wasted hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars US sends A-10 squadron to Afghanistan for first time in three years MORE wants details on a $400 million payment made to Iran, arguing the Obama administration hid the transaction from Congress. 

The New Hampshire Republican sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Jack LewJacob (Jack) Joseph LewTech relishes role as Trump antagonist Overnight Tech: EU investigates Apple's Shazam buy | FCC defends GOP commissioners CPAC visit | Groups sue FTC for Facebook privacy records | A big quarter for Google Treasury pushes back on travel criticism with data on Obama-era costs MORE after The Wall Street Journal reported details of the payment and that some Justice Department officials had raised concerns.

"Contrary to the President’s assertions last week, the covert shipment of a $400 million cash ransom payment to Iran on the day Americans were released by Tehran was purposefully hid from members of Congress," she said in a statement. "Equally disturbing, the administration used bulk foreign currency cash transfers to evade the effects of U.S. financial sanctions."

Ayotte is the latest GOP lawmaker to question the administration on the details of the money, which was the first part of a $1.7 billion settlement to resolve a decades-old arms dispute. The administration announced the settlement in January.

But opponents of a separate Iran nuclear deal — including Ayotte — have seized on the fact that the payment was made in cash and coincided with the release of U.S. hostages from Iran to argue that it was a "ransom payment." 

Ayotte asked Lew what role the Treasury Department, or individuals affiliated with the department, played in the payment, including if officials traveled abroad or contacted foreign banks.

She also questioned if the administration violated sanctions, asking if the department or its officials believed the money would "meet the standard for material support to a designated entity" or if the payment constituted money laundering. 

"If Treasury Department officials expressed concern regarding these transfers or were asked to facilitate the evasion of U.S. and international financial sanctions, that would raise additional questions that the administration should answer for Congress and the American people," Ayotte said. 

Republicans have seized on the payment, with GOP Sens. Johnny IsaksonJohn (Johnny) Hardy IsaksonOvernight Defense: Trump decision on Korea summit coming 'next week' | China disinvited from major naval exercise | Senate sends VA reform bill to Trump Senate sends major VA reform bill to Trump's desk Senate panel heading toward June hearing for Trump's next VA pick MORE (Ga.), David Perdue (Ga.), Mark KirkMark Steven KirkThis week: Trump heads to Capitol Hill Trump attending Senate GOP lunch Tuesday High stakes as Trump heads to Hill MORE (Ill.), Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyDem senator: Trump Jr. may have given 'false testimony' about meeting with foreign nationals A second chance for Republicans to reform farm handouts Former US attorneys urge support for Trump nominee MORE (Iowa) and Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonSenate confirms Haspel to head CIA Democrats urge colleagues to oppose prison reform bill Trump-backed prison reforms face major obstacles in Senate MORE (Ark.) also sending letters to the administration. 

Ayotte, who is up for reelection, has also targeted New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, her Democratic opponent, over the payment, arguing she should pull her support for the separate nuclear agreement because of it.