Donald Trump on Wednesday vividly described a video he said he had watched earlier in the day of Iranian officials unloading cash from an airplane, claiming the money was part of a payment by the U.S. to Iran to settle a decades-old dispute over an incomplete weapons sale. His campaign later confirmed that Trump was in fact referring to a months-old video filmed in Geneva that showed three of the Americans who had just been released from prison in Iran.
“I’ll never forget the scene this morning,” Trump told the crowd in Daytona Beach, Florida, recalling the video he said he had watched. “Iran ― I don’t think you’ve heard this anywhere but here ― Iran provided all of that footage, the tape, of taking that money off that airplane.
“Over there, where that plane landed, top secret, they don’t have a lot of paparazzi, you know,” the former reality TV personality said. “The paparazzi doesn’t do so well over there.” But “they have a perfect tape, obviously done by a government camera, and the tape is of the people taking the money off the plane. It’s a military tape. It’s a tape that was a perfect angle, nice and steady.”
“Iran released that tape, which is of quality like these guys have,” he continued, pointing to the media in the back of the room. “Iran released that tape so that we will be embarrassed.”
A Trump campaign spokeswoman told The Washington Post early Thursday that the businessman was, in fact, talking about the video from Geneva. She did not explain why he claimed it was a top secret video from Iran.
The video was “merely the b-roll footage included in every broadcast” of the prisoner release, spokeswoman Hope Hicks confirmed. Hicks did not respond to a request for comment from The Huffington Post.
This means that Trump told his audience a half-dozen things about the tape that aren’t accurate. The video he saw was not shot in Iran, it did not show the exchange of cash, it was not “top secret,” it was not “a military tape,” and it was not “provided by Iran.” Nor was it released to embarrass the United States.
On the contrary, the safe return of U.S. citizens to neutral Switzerland was widely viewed as a victory for international diplomacy and U.S. foreign policy.
Trump’s description of the “top secret” tape came shortly after James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, said that both Trump and Hillary Clinton would soon start receiving classified national security briefings. Because of this, it was not initially clear whether Trump was leaking information from the briefings, or simply fabricating a description of a non-existent video.
A spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the group that handles classified briefings for presidential nominees, did not respond to a question from HuffPost about whether Trump had already been briefed by the agency, but the Atlantic’s Russell Berman reported Wednesday that Trump and Clinton could begin receiving briefings “as soon as the coming days.”
UPDATE: 8/4, 4:00 p.m. ― Trump referenced the nonexistent video once again on Thursday while speaking to a crowd in Portland, Maine.
“It was interesting because a tape was made,” he said. “Right? You saw that? With the airplane coming in? Nice plane. And the airplane coming 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 is incompetent.”
Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters Thursday he was “not aware” of any such video existing.
“I obviously haven’t seen it if I am not aware if it,” he said.
This article was updated throughout after a Trump campaign spokeswoman contradicted Trump’s account.