On Thursday’s Morning Joe, MSNBC panelists discussed a report by The Wall Street Journal that President Trump had attempted to begin negotiations with Iran over the release of American prisoners held there. While none present on the panel opposed the attempted negotiations themselves, that did not preclude them from using the occasion to criticize the President.
Host Mika Brzezinski was quick to point out that the President had been “critical of the U.S. Iranian prisoner swap of 2016 under the Obama administration.” Other members of the panel quickly picked up on this fact and focused their criticism on the President’s characterization of the negotiations as a “ransom payment.”
“It certainly makes him look like a hypocrite,” Joe Scarborough concluded.
Associated Press White House reporter Jonathan Lemire agreed, “It’s another moment where the President’s actions run contrary to his words.” He went on to recall that the President had called the Obama-era negotiations “unpatriotic.”
It is unclear whether Scarborough and Lemire were simply missing the point, or if they were being deliberately obtuse. President Trump’s criticism of the deal negotiated in 2016 was directed specifically at the $400 million payment to Iran by the U.S. Then-candidate Trump alleged that the money transfer – which was not initially disclosed – had been a “ransom payment,” though the State Department denied that the money was tied to the release of American hostages.
Although Brzezinski mentioned the transfer of funds between the U.S. and Iran while providing background for the story, this figure was not brought up again for the remainder of the segment. Instead, the panelists on Morning Joe seemed to infer from the Trump’s statements in 2016 that his issue was with the negotiations themselves, rather than with the deal that was finally agreed on.
The charge that the President is a hypocrite for attempting to negotiate with Iran implies that he has previously claimed to be ideologically opposed to the release of American prisoners. Unless the White House ends up proposing some sort of payment in exchange for these prisoners’ freedom, such a criticism is, at best, mistaken.