A peeved President Barack Obama flatly rejected a suggestion Wednesday that he was "content" with the recent nuclear deal with Iran which did not include the release of four Americans, including pastor Saeed Abedini, who remain imprisoned in the Middle Eastern nation on mostly "trumped-up" charges.
Responding to a question from CBS News' Major Garrett at a White House press conference on Wednesday, President Obama took offense to Garrett's suggestion that he was "content" with the nuclear deal despite not securing the release of the Americans imprisoned in Iran.
"As you well know, there are four Americans in Iran, three held on trumped-up charges according to your administration and one, whereabouts unknown," said Garrett in the run-up to his question. "Can you tell the country, sir, why you are content with all the fanfare around this deal to leave the conscious of this nation, the strength of this nation unaccounted for in relation to these four Americans?"
As soon as the reporter was done relaying his question however, President Obama wasted no time attempting to set the record straight.
"I've got to give you credit Major for how you craft those questions," began Obama. "The notion that I'm content as I celebrate with American citizens languishing in Iranian jails," he noted with a pause. "Major, that's nonsense, and you should know better."
He then went on to explain the complex nature of the negotiations and the reason the release of the imprisoned Americans was not included as a part of the Iran nuclear deal.
"Nobody is content, and our diplomats and our teams are working diligently to try to get them out," said Obama. "Now, if the question is why we did not tie the negotiations to their release, think about the logic that that creates. Suddenly Iran realizes, 'You know what? Maybe we can get additional concessions out of the Americans by holding these individuals.'
"And, by the way, if we had walked away from the nuclear deal, we'd still be pushing them just as hard to get these folks out," Obama added. "That's why those issues are not connected, but we are working every single day to try to get them out and won't stop until they are out and rejoined with their families."
After listening to Obama's reasoning on why the release of the imprisoned Americans were not included as a part of the deal with Iran, Naghmeh Abedini, the wife imprisoned pastor Saeed Abedini, told CNN that she thought the explanation made sense despite being disappointed that her husband wasn't freed.
When asked if anyone from the Obama administration had been in contact with her since the deal was announced, she said officials from the State Department had reached out to her and explained that they were still working to secure the release of her husband.
On Tuesday, Naghmeh Abedini said she was deeply disappointed with news of the Iran deal as the American Center for Law and Justice called on Congress to reject it.
"With the announcement of a deal and yet silence as to the fate of Saeed and the other Americans held hostage in Iran, their fate lies now in the hands of Congress. I plead with each member of Congress to review the deal with our family at the forefront of their thoughts. Congress holds the key to bringing my husband home, to returning the father to my children," said Abedini.
"He promised to make pastor Saeed's release a 'top priority.' Instead, this U.S. citizen is left to suffer beatings, torment, and excruciating pain in one of the world's worst prisons because he is a Christian," said the ACLJ in a petition calling on Congress to reject the deal. "The administration has committed diplomatic malpractice. It's unconscionable."