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Illinois governor throws up hands at Kirk’s Obama ‘drug dealer’ comment

Gov.+Bruce+Rauner+declares+victory+at+his+election+night+celebration+at+the+Hilton+on+Nov.+4%2C+2014+in+Chicago.+%28Brian+Cassella%2C+Chicago+Tribune%2FMCT%29
Gov. Bruce Rauner declares victory at his election night celebration at the Hilton on Nov. 4, 2014 in Chicago. (Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune/MCT)

Gov. Bruce Rauner declares victory at his election night celebration at the Hilton on Nov. 4, 2014 in Chicago. (Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune/MCT)

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Gov. Bruce Rauner declares victory at his election night celebration at the Hilton on Nov. 4, 2014 in Chicago. (Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune/MCT)

By Chicago Tribune

Asked Monday to weigh in on U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk’s recent characterization of President Barack Obama as the nation’s “drug dealer in chief,” Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner literally threw up his hands.

“I heard something about that,” Rauner said. “I don’t want to comment on that.”

Kirk made the statement last week while speaking to the editorial board of the State Journal-Register of Springfield. Kirk was referring to a $400 million cash payment that was made by the U.S. to Iran and linked to the release of American prisoners.

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“I will say that the senator has been a strong advocate, I think a good advocate, for trying to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power,” Rauner said of Kirk, a Republican ally who helped him win election in 2014. “And I applaud him for that work. And also, I’ll make one other general statement and that is I am strongly, strongly opposed to ransom payments of any type for hostages.”

U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) is congratulated after winning the Republican primary for Illinois's U.S. Senate seat on Feb. 2, 2010, in Wheeling. (Lane Christiansen/Chicago Tribune/MCT)

U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) is congratulated after winning the Republican primary for Illinois’s U.S. Senate seat on Feb. 2, 2010, in Wheeling. (Lane Christiansen/Chicago Tribune/MCT)

Pressed to address Kirk’s comment about President Obama more specifically, Rauner repeatedly raised his hands in air as he tried to shrug off the questions.

“I won’t comment on word selection,” he said at one point.

On Sunday evening, Kirk, an ardent foe of the multi-nation agreement aimed at reducing Iran’s capability for building nuclear weapons, said he intended to hold hearings next month on the payment as chairman of the Senate subcommittee on national security and international trade and finance.

“The American people have a right to know if any U.S. taxpayer money sent to Iran is going to finance the new ‘Shi’ite Liberation Army,’ Hezbollah or Hamas terrorists targeting our allies in Israel, or any other Iranian terrorist activities,” Kirk said in a statement.

The money, paid in foreign currency, was part of a previously announced settlement in a case stemming from money owed since 1979. The Obama administration described the payment as “leverage” for the release of U.S. prisoners that did not violate long-standing policy of not paying ransom for hostages.

Kirk faces a tough re-election bid Nov. 8 against challenger Tammy Duckworth, a two-term congresswoman from Hoffman Estates.

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(c) 2016 the Chicago Tribune

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