Inconsistencies from both sides in Bergdahl release
June 4th, 2014
09:23 AM ET
6 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. toesml

    I heard the president yesterday once again explaining his radical abuse of power and when he finished his statement of lies, he once again guaranteed that he even knows what he said was not true with his signature ending word "PERIOD!" Lets face it, even the DEM's/libs and all you blind Obummer supporters..... yes even you all know there is something much more sinister behind this move..... and ii is purely self serving and certainly not in the best interest of America!

    June 4, 2014 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    tom l wrote:

    2. Obama was speaking at the United Nations. There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. They were, and still are, outraged by the video. Obama was addressing people of the world, not just those who were concerned about the Benghazi attack.
    ......

    2. Not once did he mention in the speech that the Benghazi attacks were a coordinated attack and by referencing the video several times one would infer that the video was the reason for the Benghazi attacks.

    I can understand that #2 is subject to interpretation and in my humble opinion it seemed to me by reading and listening to the speech that since he gave no reason for the Benghazi attacks, yet talked a lot about the video, that he was blaming the video for said attack and not that it was a coordinated attack. ... ....
    ==========================================================================
    If, as you say, Pres. Obama gave no reason for the Benghazi attacks, then why do you keep interpreting his words as if he did give an explanation for them? Hmm? Because you're being a partisan demagogue, tom.

    June 4, 2014 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  3. more bs

    paul reynolds
    so i guess the president didn't violate any laws. interesting who would have known?

    June 4, 2014 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  4. smith

    @Sniffit- I have no idea what you are talking about. Not once did I ever say we should not have brought Bergdahl home. Once again your making assumptions and putting words in peoples mouths.

    June 4, 2014 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  5. CryBabies

    @ Sniffit.....Yawn. The rabbit hole is one step ahead......snickers.

    June 4, 2014 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  6. tj

    McCain mentions prisoner exchanges. Ayotte and Inhofe say that the military needs to get him back. Those are different and details matter.
    Also, why does the "most transparent government" (said candidate Barack Obama) have trouble with "presenting a consistent narrative about the deal that freed Bergdahl"???

    June 4, 2014 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  7. smith

    @Lynda-Really? Your saying Bergdahl's platoon is lying in some sort of conspiracy because they didn't like him? The Afghan villagers who saw Bergdahl by himself looking anybody that spoke english are part of this conspiracy as well? There is no evidence to support that claim at all. Your really reaching here.

    June 4, 2014 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  8. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Great post ProudDem.

    June 4, 2014 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  9. tj

    "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. " Yet no one really knows- and reports say his health is fine.......So, what happened??

    June 4, 2014 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  10. Anonymous

    carlos
    This guys was never designated a POW by state dept or the Pentagon. He is NOT a POW. He deserted his post and 6 soldiers died looking for him. He is no hero and this was a political stunt that backfired. Every one of his fellow soldiers with whom he served all say he walked off his post. How anyone could defend what this President did is beyond the pale. Obama frees someone not worthy of freeing and leaves another to rot in a Mexican jail. This is the most pathetic POTUS ever.

    ++++++++++++++++++++

    Um yeah, except we're not at war with Mexico. And how do you know the President doesn't have people working on the release of the former Marine in Mexico?

    June 4, 2014 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  11. Phillip Andrews

    Like the President says....."No man left behind".......unless you are a CIA operative trying to protect
    an American Ambassador.....then we can just leave you die and not even attempt to send any assistance.

    June 4, 2014 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  12. tj

    Telling the truth about what Bergdahl did, deserting his post, is now "publicly ridiculing" him? WOW! I guess on the left, where there is no God and no right or wrong, there is also no accountability.

    June 4, 2014 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  13. bubba's a genius

    The gop trying to play both sides, again, pathetic, and predictable

    June 4, 2014 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  14. Lynda/Minnesota

    smith
    @Lynda-Really? Your saying Bergdahl's platoon is lying in some sort of conspiracy because they didn't like him? The Afghan villagers who saw Bergdahl by himself looking anybody that spoke english are part of this conspiracy as well? There is no evidence to support that claim at all. Your really reaching here.
    --------

    That's not what I said, smith. Good try, though. I find the entire matter of public outcry contemptible. Which of coarse is the brunt of my comments. This includes "his entire platoon" for speaking out (if indeed the entire platoon is speaking out) on the matter publicly when they understand ... or should understand ... that this entire episode will eventually speak for itself with the appropriate documentation.

    I side on due process, smith. Scarlet letters are so yesterday ... yes?

    June 4, 2014 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  15. tj

    There is a Proverb that talks about reasoning with fools making you a fool. To try and debate with people who see ANY disagreement with President Obama as racist is indeed foolish. To tell them his foreign policy is weak can never cause his fans to look at the world objectively. Even if he breaks a law, and an ally, Diane Feinstein calls it out., then she must be wrong or misguided or misinformed? This is leadership??? Wow! Indeed Obama has fundamentally transformed America.

    June 4, 2014 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  16. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    No man left behind.
    Imagine that.....oh wait, you don't have to imagine it. It has happenned.
    Thank you President Obama.

    June 4, 2014 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  17. tj

    Bergdahl's peers come on TV and discuss his "service." They seem to tell the truth or I trust they do- why? Because these men and women serve and keep me and my family free. They have a code and honor and truth matters to them or people die. BUT that code matters not to the left. Rather, they suggest these men lied or were coerced into a story by Republicans. Are you kidding?

    June 4, 2014 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  18. Rudy NYC

    "can you please point us all to the part of the constitution that describes signing statements and grants the president the ability to excuse himself from abiding by the laws he signs into law for the rest of us? his administration is on video tape many times saying they would abide by the law. but of course we all know they lie about eveything and fools like you believe them."
    ---------------------
    You know, it's that whole "Commander-In-Chief thingy" thing. What is he supposed to do in the event of an emergency? Is he supposed to consult with Congress every time he moves an aircraft carrier from place to place? What about all of the Republicans who left us with all of these wonderful sound bites demanding that the administration do everything possible to secure the man's release? Did you see the Olympic caliber, synchronized back flip-flop they completed?

    June 4, 2014 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  19. Sniffit

    "@Sniffit- I have no idea what you are talking about. Not once did I ever say we should not have brought Bergdahl home. Once again your making assumptions and putting words in peoples mouths."

    I was really agreeing with you. Didn't mean to sound like I wasn't. I didn't accuse you of saying he shouldn't have been brought home, nor did I put those words in your mouth. I simply stated my agreement with you and used it to highlight that the arguments floating around that amount to saying he shouldn't have been brought home or wasn't important enough based on the assumption that he's a deserter are nonsense. There was no intent to imply that you were making that argument.

    June 4, 2014 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  20. Retired

    Served 7 combat tours in my military tenure. If you have never gone to war for this country, shut up talking about what the president had to do to get one of our warfighters back. If you think that this swap inspires terrorists to kidnap Americans then you have been Rip VanWinkle for the last 15 years. Know what you're talking before you start typing that bi-partisan BS. I know with absolute positivity that he voluntarily wandered off because I was there at the time. Like the president said "it doesn't matter" he's still an American. That's why we have the Uniformed Code of Military Justice to determine his fate.

    June 4, 2014 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  21. thunderbolt

    I love how the author tries to twist the facts. Did we want to get him back......yeah..........Did any republicans say at any cost? Being willing to entertain the thought of a swap is one thing...........Swapping him for five Taliban leaders is yet, something else. So we swap one deserter for five leaders, when we supposedly have them on the run and hurting for leadership. Are we that stupid??.........Yes, some of us really are. But I'm sure there are parts of the deal we will never know about. How much money did Obama sweeten the pot with?.........Weapons?............what else did he give them.....

    June 4, 2014 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  22. Rudy NYC

    I guess we have another teachable moment on our hands, folks. This moments lesson is brought to light by all of the hypocrites on the right.

    LESSON: If the Republicans are in charge of running this country, they will leave you behind in the event that you get captured in one of their wars.

    June 4, 2014 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  23. Sniffit

    "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. " Yet no one really knows"

    Newsflash: GOPers/Teatrolls ignoring anything that is said to them that conflicts with what they want to hear is not "no one really knowing." Rather, it is willful ignorance and, well, mostly just faking it.

    "- and reports say his health is fine"

    No they don't. In fact, the hospital in Germany AND the US military have refused to give any specific information other than him being "stable" and have repeatedly cited privacy laws when asked by idiot reporters who couldn't possibly care less about the guy's medical privacy. Moreover, you need to go inform yourself about the evidence coming out that justified intelligence and military officials in believing his health was declining to a point where his life was in danger.

    June 4, 2014 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  24. sly

    " these men and women serve and keep me and my family free. They have a code and honor and truth matters to them or people die."
    ======
    No American soldier has ever served to keep me free. I haven't supported any US military invasion, and have fought againest them and twice, in Vietnam and Iraq, us anti-war demonstrators forced the end of the wars and we single-handedly saved up to 100,000 American boys.

    That said ... of course we rescue our POW's ... heck, we even saved that old napalmer McCain.

    Only a Republican would wish our POW's get tortured and die in the desert.

    June 4, 2014 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  25. smith

    @Sniffit-Fair enough.

    Rudy NYC-

    I guess we have another teachable moment on our hands, folks. This moments lesson is brought to light by all of the hypocrites on the right.

    LESSON: If the Republicans are in charge of running this country, they will leave you behind in the event that you get captured in one of their wars.

    @Rudy-Stop watching Maddow! The GOP and alot Dems just don't like the deal that secured the release of Bergdahl. This deal has been on the table for some time now and the Senate intel. committee was against it(which includes Feinstein and other dems).

    June 4, 2014 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13