At a rally in Florida on Wednesday Donald Trump made the claim that he had personally seen a “top secret” video of a $400 million payment to Iran being unloaded. He alleged that this payment was a ransom for hostages held in Iran, which were set free, but in reality the payment was a release of funds frozen under sanctions that still belonged to Iran and were released as part of the nuclear deal.
“Now here’s the amazing thing,” Trump said Wednesday. “Over there, where that plane landed, top secret, they don’t have a lot of paparazzi. You know the paparazzi doesn’t do so well over there, right? And they have a perfect tape done by obviously a government camera, and the tape is of the people taking the money off the plane, right?”
Later on that night, a spokesperson for the Trump campaign said that Trump was mistaken, that he had seen footage of the hostages getting off a plane in Geneva. Then yesterday, 18 hours after his campaign (and Secretary of State John Kerry) had announced that such footage didn’t exist, Trump doubled down and made the following statement in Portland, ME:
“It was interesting because a tape was made. Right? You saw that? With the airplane coming in, nice plane, and the airplane coming in, and the money coming off, I guess. Right? That was given to us — has to be — by the Iranians. And you know why the tape was given to us? Because they want to embarrass our country. They want to embarrass our country. And they want to embarrass our president because we have a president who’s incompetent. They want to embarrass our president. I mean, who would ever think they would be taking all of this money off the plane and then providing us with a tape? It’s only for one reason. And it’s very, very sad.”
So let’s go over that really quick. Trump says he has seen “top secret” video made by the Iranian government of an alleged cash ransom paid for the release of hostages. He further states that this was released by the Iranian government to discredit President Obama. The problem is that it simply doesn’t exist. He made the whole thing up. His own campaign said that he saw “b-roll” on Fox News of the hostages deplaning, and then the next day presumably made up this entire backstory.
As the media latches on to the obvious and easily falsifiable lie about the video, Trump makes a rare decision. He backtracks, even if only a little bit. At nearly 4am this morning, he fell back into the time honored trick of the con-man huckster caught in a lie, and says that you misunderstood him, and he was actually right all along.
That’s as closest thing to an apology I’ve ever seen from Trump.
To sum up: Wednesday he says he saw a top secret video, that doesn’t exist. Later Wednesday night his campaign acknowledges that it doesn’t exist. Thursday he repeats the lie, with the added wrinkle that it was deliberately leaked by Iran to disparage Obama. Then today he admits that he saw something else without actually admitting he was wrong or apologizing or making any excuse for himself or his fabrications.