Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie ripped President Biden on his prisoner exchange deal with Iran, arguing “you cannot give $6 billion to a terrorist state.”
“I wouldn’t have made this deal,” Christie said Monday in an interview on CNN’s “The Source” with Kaitlan Collins. “As much as I would’ve liked those Americans to be home, you cannot give $6 billion to a terrorist state.”
In exchange for the release of five wrongfully detained American prisoners, the White House’s agreement granted clemency to five Iranians and issued a blanket waiver for international banks to allow the transfer of $6 billion of Iranian oil sail proceeds, frozen in South Korea, to a bank in Qatar.
When asked how he would have handled the deal, Christie said, “You do the very best you can, you continue to work as hard as you can to get them returned home, but you don’t get them returned home to make matters worse.”
“Americans are now more of a target for Iran than they were before,” he continued. “Because they took five this time, maybe they’ll take 10 next time, and then they’ll be looking for $12 billion of $15 billion – this never ends.”
Christie, the former governor of New Jersey, said he “would not have had a problem” with the prisoner swap, but would not have issued the release of funds.
“This empowers that regime to support terror and encourages them to take more Americans in order to try to get more money from assets that are frozen because of their own terrorist conduct,” he said.
His criticism joins that of some of his fellow GOP candidates and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who have expressed concerns the deal will encourage hostile nations to take more Americans traveling abroad as hostages in the future.
The funds were proceeds from Iran’s oil sales to South Korea that were previously frozen by the U.S. when relations between the two countries faltered. U.S. officials said the funds were to be used only for food, medicine and other humanitarian goods.
“The idea that Iran would use this money for only humanitarian efforts,” Christie said. “Let me tell you what humanitarian is in Iran, Kaitlian – that means they cut your hands off before they kill you. That’s humanitarian in Iran. This is one of the most barbaric regimes in the world.”
When asked how the country will use the funds in an interview earlier this month, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said the money will be spent “wherever we need it.”
The five Americans freed in the prisoner swap arrived in Fort Belvoir, Va. on Tuesday morning, where they were greeted by loved ones who clapped, cheered and cried for their arrival.
All of the released Americans were sentenced in Iran to 10 years in prison on spying charges.