Inconsistencies from both sides in Bergdahl release
June 4th, 2014
09:23 AM ET
3 months ago

Inconsistencies from both sides in Bergdahl release

Warsaw, Poland (CNN) - The partisan feud erupting between the White House and Republican critics over the release of former POW Bowe Bergdahl has revealed inconsistencies on both sides of the debate.

Late Tuesday, Democratic supporters of President Barack Obama’s decision to trade five Guantanamo detainees for Bergdahl’s freedom began circulating quotes from several GOP lawmakers who initially supported efforts to free the Army sergeant but who later criticized the swap.

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, was among the first high-profile critics to question whether the exchange of five Taliban commanders for Bergdahl came at too high a price. "This decision to bring Sgt. Bergdahl home, and we applaud that he's home - it's ill-founded, it's a mistake and it's putting lives of American servicemen and women at risk​," McCain told reporters in Washington Tuesday.

But last February, in an interview on CNN, McCain appeared more willing to back a prisoner swap. "Obviously I'd have to know the details, but I would support ways of bringing him home and if (an) exchange was one of them, I think that would be something I think we should seriously consider,” McCain said at the time.

McCain disputes that his position has evolved.

"Any allegation that I have changed my opinion is an absolute lie," McCain told reporters Wednesday.

"I said I would always, and have always approved of prisoner exchanges if I knew the details. And I never said I would approve any under any circumstances. This is clearly a terrible idea. These are the hardest of the hardcore, they will be returning to the fight, and they will endanger the lives of Americans," added the 2008 Republican presidential nominee.

In a Memorial Day op-ed, New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte called on the Obama administration to make Bergdahl's release an urgent priority.

"I renew my call on the Defense Department to redouble its efforts to find Sergeant Bergdahl and return him safely to his family," Ayotte wrote in the New Hampshire Union Leader.

Days later, after Bergdahl's release, Ayotte criticized the deal that secured his freedom.

"The administration’s decision to release these five terrorist detainees endangers U.S. national security interests,” Ayotte said, according to the Union Leader.

Liz Johnson, press secretary for Ayotte, said there is nothing inconsistent about her stance.

"Senator Ayotte has led efforts in Congress to prevent the release of high risk detainees from Guantanamo, and she never would have supported trading five dangerous terrorists who are likely to reengage in terrorist activities against Americans and our allies," Johnson said.

A Democratic source also pointed to comments on the Bergdahl case made last year by Sen. James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma.

"The mission to bring our missing soldiers home is one that will never end. It’s important that we make every effort to bring this captured soldier home to his family," Inhofe said in a statement in June, 2013.

But after the administration announced that the five Taliban detainees had been traded for Bergdahl's release, Inhofe said the White House had put U.S. soldiers at risk.

"Our terrorist adversaries now have a strong incentive to capture Americans," Inhofe said in a statement over the weekend.

The Obama administration has had its own challenges presenting a consistent narrative about the deal that freed Bergdahl, including the decision to circumvent U.S. law requiring the administration to notify Congress about the detainee release from Guantanamo.

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a frequent defender of Obama administration foreign policy, said she was disappointed the White House did not comply with the law.

"The concerns were bipartisan, and I strongly believe that we should have been consulted, that the law should have been followed and I very much regret that that was not the case," she told reporters Tuesday.

Feinstein's comments later drew an apology from Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken. But the apology appeared to be contradicted only hours later by a statement released by a senior administration official defending the White House decision against notification.

"We have been very clear about the reasons we did not notify the Congress 30 days in advance," the official wrote in a prepared statement. Administration officials said earlier in the day that notifications to lawmakers could have endangered the mission to free Bergdahl.

There were also inconsistencies over when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was notified by administration officials about the prisoner exchange.

Reid told reporters he had been told about the swap Friday. But a senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, later said Reid was briefed about the mission on Saturday.

CNN's Paul Courson contributed to this story


Filed under: Afghanistan • Dianne Feinstein • Jim Inhofe • John McCain • Kelly Ayotte • President Obama
soundoff (306 Responses)
  1. Lizzie

    Too bad. .....don't you want to hear the other side, or should we only hear ones sides lies.
    Why can't people just be happy the Sgt. Is back.

    June 4, 2014 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  2. joedog

    Susan Rice lies again A hero returns? The Administration are obviously detached from reality.

    June 4, 2014 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  3. jrzydvl

    Spot on, RussGriz. The ariticle really stretched what McCain said. I wonder if hose 5 will have an attack before the 2016 election.

    June 4, 2014 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  4. Sniffit

    "Our terrorist adversaries now have a strong incentive to capture Americans," Inhofe said in a statement over the weekend."

    ^^THIS is the single most ridiculous, irrational and borderline braindamaged argument in the entire debate. Here's why:

    1. The needle on Incentive-to-Capture-O-Meter is/was already in the red. There is/was NO room for "more incentive" to be had or created. Anyone believing otherwise needs their head examined.

    2. IF they believe they can get something in return for our soldiers, they're more likely to keep them alive rather than summarily executing them and sending us videos of their beheadings. You don't just p-ss away your bargaining chips if you think they have actual or potential value.

    3. Inhofe is a dyed-in-the-wool partisan MORON who will say anything that comes to his "mind" (such as it is) if he thinks it sounds good and will produce political leverage...and he has consistently proven that throughout his epically idiotic career.

    June 4, 2014 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  5. jcreole

    This article is purposefully naive. Yes, the Republicans were presumptuous and blabbed before they knew the relevant details. Politicians aren't known for their subtlety or intelligence. But like 99% of Americans, most of them didn't know that the alleged POW had previously turned his back on the military that he was sworn to, nor, of course did they agitate for Berdgahl's release "at any cost".

    The glaring problem with this article is the assumption that because somebody promotes for an exchange that therefore they would want an awful exchange where we give away murderers-of-Americans for a facilitator-of-murderers-of-Americans. That is a textbook example of a specious fallacy.

    June 4, 2014 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  6. joedog

    Bosley Alderman: Senator Mc Cain was shot down in combat and also refused early release. Then Pfc. Bergdahl, according to those who truly knew him, his platoon mates, walked off or found a ride off his base; thus deserting his unit in time of war. Several soldiers were killed looking for him. The lies that the Administration boldly tells are only supported by their true believers and spin merchants.

    June 4, 2014 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  7. Government Waste Rules

    Obama is a complete dolt for releasing 5 dangerous terrorists for this deserter. Or he is actively working against American interests.

    June 4, 2014 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  8. bigdoglv

    No one knew the story how he walked off his post till he was released. The fact that the president strutted his parents out to the podium shows what this is about. Yes, he needed to come home but parading around with the usual "look at me" attitude shows that the urgency was political not medical.

    June 4, 2014 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  9. PJ

    My how far CNN has fallen. Rather than news, this is yet another example of Democrats trying to silence their opponents rather than allowing civil debate.

    "Democratic supporters of President Barack Obama’s decision to trade five Guantanamo detainees for Bergdahl’s freedom began circulating quotes from several GOP lawmakers who initially supported efforts to free the Army sergeant but who later criticized the swap."

    "efforts to free" someone and a specific deal are completely different things. McCains "inconsistent" quote even begins by explaining that he would need the details ""Obviously I'd have to know the details,..." now that he has the details and is disgusted with it (as are most Americans) he is inconsistent?

    The other "inconsistent" quotes are no more relevant to this particular deal either, America was kept in the dark about the fact that Bergdahl was a deserter AND America had always been fed the position that "America does not negotiate with terrorists".

    How desperate do Democrats have to be to search for quotes to twist into hate-speech?

    June 4, 2014 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  10. KBNJ

    More CNN tripe. If I told my wife 'we really should think about selling our house', and she sold it for a dollar, CNN would say I was 'inconsistent'. Good grief.

    June 4, 2014 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  11. Silence DoGood

    This cannot be tried and convicted in the comments section of CNN. That is for a court to decide. Conservatives, as usual will assume the extreme possibility that tries to make our president look bad. And then consider that reality.

    Many conservatives were for this trade before Obama actually followed through. Now they hate it. Conservative flexible morality.

    June 4, 2014 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  12. excuse my rant

    Jim 26yrvet
    Of course all the congress men and women support the general idea of bringing home a prisoner. All of the supportive comments were from a general perspective. This was not a blank check as CNN makes it sound. The negetive comments were on this specific deal, not the idea of bringing Americans home. I do not see the contradiction CNN is trying to spin.
    ____________________________________________________________
    "The mission to bring our missing soldiers home is one that will never end. It’s important that we make every effort to bring this captured soldier home to his family," Inhofe said in a statement in June, 2013.

    How are the specifics of this deal not within the realm of "every effort to bring this captured soldier home" as Inhofe says, thus making the contradiction? Please enlighten us.

    June 4, 2014 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  13. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    FJ

    People of the United States of America,
    A trade of Prisoners would have been OK if it were 1 for 1, 1 low level Taliban Insurgent Sand Flea for our Solider.
    Releasing 5 Bad Ass Top Dog Taliban Leaders was a major screw up and will come back to bite the United States.
    -------------------------------------------------
    When you get elected POTUS you can make that call and worry about the back bites.
    Right now there's only one person that has all the intel to make that decision.

    June 4, 2014 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  14. OIF Vet

    We do not leave any soldier behind who has been captured by the enemy. I would not consider being captured someone who leaves his post to seek out and befriend the enemy. He made his bed and he deserved to sleep in it. As a Vet I will believe my fellow brothers in arms version of this story over any self serving administration, media source or political party. AIRBORNE!

    June 4, 2014 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  15. jrzydvl

    @Lynda/Minnesota
    Tell that to the jihadists. Unless we are extremely dilignet trying to dtop terrorism, there wilbe another 9/11. A the liberals love , its the new norm. Embrace it.

    June 4, 2014 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  16. Silence DoGood

    @Government Waste Rules
    Obama is a complete dolt for releasing 5 dangerous terrorists for this deserter. Or he is actively working against American interests.
    ----------
    Since the trial has not taken place you don't know he is a deserter.
    Oh wait this is the conservative rumor conspiracy mill. Oh oh, can I play? Did you hear that one of those 5 terrorists traded is actually Darth Vader? Wow! That means Obama is a dictator! This is fun.

    June 4, 2014 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  17. Lynda/Minnesota

    John
    6 soldiers died seaching for this deserter.
    ---------------

    Seriously? In the middle of a war, one might also say 6 men died on military operations which may or may not have been directly related to searching for 1 soldier. If true, perhaps it would have been of benefit to this 1 soldier's command to keep a better eye on his comings and goings while attached to whatever military unit he was attached to.

    Frankly, we have been at war in Afghanistan for years now and no doubt hundreds upon hundreds military ops have been ordered for one reason or another.

    On another note: 4,000 men died searching for non existent WMDs in Iraq.

    June 4, 2014 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  18. corpsman

    "Obviously I'd have to know the details, but I would support ways of bringing him home and if (an) exchange was one of them, I think that would be something I think we should seriously consider,” McCain said at the time.

    So McCain and the repubs were for this kind of deal until President Obama pulled it off successfully. I'm surprised the teagunner bots and their repub friends haven't criticized him for taking out bin Laden....

    June 4, 2014 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  19. jrzydvl

    @bigdoglv
    Good [oit. however, the soldiers thatwere there knew what happened and were forced to keep silent. The had to sign non-disclosure formsor something like that. Now the DOD is sying they may not have his complete file ? This stinks.

    June 4, 2014 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  20. sonny chapman

    Benghazi & Bergdahl. This is gonna be confusing for the Obama Haters.

    June 4, 2014 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  21. Barry

    "BUT NOT AT ANY PRICE?" Can't you read?

    "It’s important that we make every effort to bring this captured soldier home to his family," Inhofe said in a statement in June, 2013.

    So if we offered 3 Taliban, and they asked for 6, and we settle for 5, isn't that making "every effort"? If we had walked away, Inhofe would have then complained we didn't make "every effort". YOU CAN'T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS!

    June 4, 2014 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  22. jiminauburn

    "Did not comply with the law", "circumvent US law". If I do not comply with the law or circumvent the law by robbing a bank, I go to jail. This administration is doing this kind of crap all too often. Either ignoring the laws and doing whatever they want, or creating their own laws by edict.

    June 4, 2014 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  23. DM

    This article clearly states the GOP consistency. None said unconditional release of 5 top detainees. Several said RESCUE, which is NOT negotiating with terrorists but RESCUE via a military initiative. McCain said "one of them". Then again, he is a former POW. While we MAY, n the past, have negotiated with countries, here we negotiated with terrorists. Myself as a veteran, walking off a post in a combat zone is not going for a walk. It is desertion. There is no acceptable reason for his actions and the loss of American lives looking for him was horrible. The celebration of this is absurd, and the spin such as this is typical.

    June 4, 2014 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  24. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Oh come on corpsman HE didn't get OBL, Seal Team 6 did by their own accord. No orders they just remembered some intel from when Lil Bush was in office and decided on their own to go and get him.

    You call yourself a corpsman get with the program!!! ☺️😉☺️

    June 4, 2014 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  25. Bill from GA

    jcreole – " This article is purposefully naive. Yes, the Republicans were presumptuous and blabbed before they knew the relevant details. "

    Actually, reading between the lines, Here's what I get:

    If Obama has not gotten our POW released, he is wrong for not doing it.
    If Obama has gotten our POW released, he is wrong for doing it.

    Politics, 2014

    June 4, 2014 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
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