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Republican presidential candidates Saturday raised varying levels of criticism of the prisoner exchange that led to the freeing of four Americans in Iran, while agreeing they were glad the Americans could come home.
Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioWhat Trump's Cabinet picks reveal House passes water bill with Flint aid, drought relief What the 2016 election can tell us about 2018 midterms MORE (R-Fla.) had one of the harshest takes on the deal to release seven Iranians in exchange for the four Americans.
“We shouldn’t be involved in swaps,” Rubio told reporters after a campaign event in Iowa, according to Time.
“The fact of the matter is that this tells us everything we need to know about the Iranian regime — that they take people hostage in order to gain concessions,” Rubio continued. “And the fact that they can get away with it with this administration I think has created an incentive for more governments to do this around the world.”
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also criticized the Obama administration for entering into the swap.
"We shouldn’t have to swap prisoners, these folks were taken illegally in violation of international law and they should have been released without condition,” he told an Iowa television station, according to the Huffington Post.
Businessman Donald TrumpDonald TrumpSecret CIA assesment: Russia was attempting to assist Trump Trump closes four companies tied to Saudi Arabia Manchin says he's not talking with Trump about job MORE tied in the issue to the sanctions relief that Iran gets from the nuclear deal.
“So essentially they get 150 billion plus seven [people], and we get four [people],” Trump said.
“Meh, doesn’t sound too good. Doesn’t sound too good. But we have to see, because I just heard about this an hour ago, and I’m happy they’re coming back.”
Other candidates emphasized the return of the Americans over any negative aspects.
“Praise God!” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) wrote on Twitter. “Surely bad parts of Obama's latest deal, but prayers of thanksgiving that Pastor Saeed is coming home.”
Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson praised the release of the prisoners, criticizing the nuclear deal but not the prisoner swap.
Sen. Rand PaulRand PaulTrump stumps for Louisiana Senate candidate ahead of runoff Giuliani won't serve in Trump administration Will justice in America be Trumped? MORE (R-Ky.), who has a less confrontational foreign policy than the other Republican candidates, had the most support for the swap and criticized his Republican counterparts.
“The other people onstage want to react strongly against anything Obama does, without considering the consequences of what they are saying,” Paul told The Washington Post.
"I’m hopeful that this means Iran is going to begin behaving in a more civilized fashion,” Paul said.