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

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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. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    What happened to "No man left behind"? I guess if a black President secures the freedom of a soldier, it's ok for Republican jackals to pile on.

    June 4, 2014 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  2. 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.

    June 4, 2014 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  3. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    The only new thing here is the MSM finally pointing out the hypocrisy from the GOP. They are always for something until President Obama is. Once he's for it, he's destroying the country. The ACA was the great white hope for 2012's plan and you see how they all turned against it. Then there are the birthers, many who said they didn't care if President Obama's mother was a US citizen, he was still unqualified to be POTUS, but now many of them are backing a guy that definitely was not born on American soil. But that's ok. If President Obama spoke out in favor of breathing, many GOPers would drop like flies, simply because he said breathing is good. Actually that should be his next move....😀😀😀

    June 4, 2014 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  4. Lily

    So, they wanted Bergdahl released without paying any price isn't it? Whatever way, getting him back couldn't have come with no price. Going there by a Special Force in a fighting mood, may be could have resulted in rescuers being killed or the person they wanted to rescue killed as well. There was no any simple choice in this mission. We should all use this time to praise the Special Force instead of coming up with blames. SF is a fantastic and a very brave Group, every citizen must cheer them up and be very proud of them. They are doing an extraordinary job.

    June 4, 2014 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  5. Lynda/Minnesota

    "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."

    Mr. Romney gave lessons on how to shake that Etch-A-Sketch, did he? Too funny. Good to see his faithful supporters following in his footsteps shaking that thing for all it's worth.

    Viva la Etch-A-Sketch and cue the popcorn.

    June 4, 2014 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  6. Anthony

    At least get him back. Bergdahl has not been convicted of anything yet. He is an American. We don't leave an American behind. If he was a deserter, let the military court deal with that. I bet that even the Republicans would like to get their hands on Snowden.

    If the people we released attack us again, we can use the drones. We can't use the drones on Guantanamo Bay.

    June 4, 2014 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  7. kerrypenn49

    I wonder what kind of a trade deal the Taliban would give us for Obama or Kerry?

    June 4, 2014 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  8. Bill Carson

    We had a traitor in the White House do a dirty deal to bring another traitor back that good Americans had died searching for. Maybe Americans won't put 100% emphasis on simply electing any black man the next time around.

    June 4, 2014 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  9. Bosley Alderman

    Senator McCain should be the last to complain; doesn't he remember what it was like to be held POW? If I remember correctly, it was primarily a Republican president who brokered their release. Today's political climate is like LBJ said (paraphrased), "I could walk on water across the Potomac, and the Republicans would criticize me for apparently not being able to swim."

    June 4, 2014 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  10. Lynda/Minnesota

    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.

    Oh, dear. Does this mean we're all going to have to go back to looking under our beds for them terrorist folks worshiping themselves as the most evil of evil with the intent to do all kinds of naughty and very bad things to America?

    I'm going to have to pass. It's one thing getting down on my knees to check under my bed each night. It's another thing trying to get back up. Way too much effort wasted on a bunch of cave-men clowns. Sorry.

    June 4, 2014 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  11. Timekeeper

    It is tooooo bad we could not have swapped congressman we all would be better off.

    June 4, 2014 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  12. RussGriz

    Are you people that blinded by loyalty that you can't see the difference between calling for "efforts to find Sergeant Bergdahl and return him safely to his family" and trading 5 high level terrorists for him? What WOULD have upset you? If Obama had traded a nuclear bomb for Bergdahl, would THAT have been enough to upset you? These Republicans (crooked as the Democrats, I might add) were pushing to have Bergdal brought back, but not at ANY price. Now, they object to the price we paid, and so should you. There IS NO hypocrisy here. They just don't like the deal.

    June 4, 2014 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  13. Jim Rome

    Whatever happened to "United we Stand." Oh, that was just jingoistic Republican garbage. What a despicable wild hog Senator McCain is. He should have been left behind.

    June 4, 2014 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  14. Lyn

    Not sure what all the comments on the GOP are about. McCain actually stated "he would have to know all the facts". Typcial libs spinning the statements...yet it is very clear in the article what was said. By the way, he is not and never will be a POW. He is a hostage at best and a traitor at worst. All you people defending this why don't you sign a petition and pressure the our idiotic president to bring home the marine in mexico. Techinical merit, the cases are quite similar.

    June 4, 2014 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  15. drake mallard

    the Reagan administration’s talks with Iran aimed at winning the release of U.S. hostages held in Lebanon. in the Iran case, the United States was negotiating with a sovereign government. So it was OK.

    How about in 2007, when the U.S. negotiated with Sunni insurgent leaders in Iraq to get them to stop bombing U.S. troops and join the fight against al-Qaeda in Iraq? We bribed them. We paid them off. And if you Google the statements of various U.S. officials back in 2005-2006, they were insulted when the U.S. media referred to the Sunnis as insurgents. No, those officials insisted, they’re terrorists!

    June 4, 2014 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  16. smith1

    once again the republicans are speaking out of both sides of their mouths. At least now they have something new to investigate. And spend tax dollars on. OL Mc Cain is no longer worried about the VA. How quickly they move on. Showing how much they really care about each issue.. If the president did not bring Bo home the congress would have been hollering . The man can't win Let's wait and hear from Bo as to what happened. Gitmo needs to close.

    June 4, 2014 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  17. Gurgyl

    Fundamentally that War itself an illegal war, so nothing wrong to bait and release our soldier. Don't fuss on it.

    June 4, 2014 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  18. bill

    it makes no difference who said what when-the president of the united states worked with terrorists to get the fab 5 released and write this down-THE GATES OF HELL HAVE BEEN OPENED BY OBAMA-THAT WE WILL HAVE ANOTHER 911 MUCH WORSE THAN THE FIRST OR SECOND 911-It will be a message to all what obama has done. WHY DO WE HAVE A BALANCE OF POWER SET UP TO RUN OUR GOVERNMENT? Because no one knows all the answers-obama has zero business and or military experience so when he does things on his own he just says oops-that didn't work. It is like GM-"saved GM"--but the costs of billions. Romney knowing business said let them go bankrupt and then organize-would have saved billions. that is just one example of why obama with zero experience needs to go to congress and obey the laws. His pen and phone is poison to our country.

    June 4, 2014 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  19. margroks

    Did you even read the article, Bill Carson? It shows how GOP members applauded, even requested that this guy be brought home. The minute our president, black and Democratic, did as they asked he was suddenly a traitor and all wrong. The idiot Repuplicans, including McCain who was a POW, are two faced liars when it comes down to the truth as shown in the article above. Shameful morons all of them. No matter what Obama does the GOP is never satisfied.

    June 4, 2014 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  20. Sapper

    The Bergdahle desertion news isn’t new news. This has been out for a long time. I don’t want anyone in enemy hands, but the Rose Garden “Spike the Football” ceremony was totally out of place. This ceremony and the administration’s shock at our view of a deserter show a total detachment from the military brotherhood. They just don’t understand the ramifications of when someone breaks from the brotherhood. I believe that the 15-6 investigation will be completed and the UCMJ issues will be dealt with correctly. The UCMJ is and must be beyond politics. If you don't know what a 15-6 and the UCMJ are, you probably haven't served.

    June 4, 2014 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  21. The Truth

    I feel like the heart of this is been pushed aside with all the was in support not in support finger pointing. The thing I cant look past is I think we all agree we would of liked to bring home an American but the way it was handled was flat out wrong. There was a law broke. Not only that but we traded 5 top leaders for 1 soldier. I feel as if America greatly lost this deal. To me it looks like America (one of the highest powers in the world) just got schooled by a terrorist group that lives in caves. No wonder bullying is a problem in this country because our GOVERNMENT (democrat/republican) just got bullied into one of if not the worst prisoner exchanges in history. I thank all the men and women who have served but what is sad is they serve for a country who now seems to of lost its backbone to stand up and say WE ARE AMERICA and this is how we work.

    June 4, 2014 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  22. Lynda/Minnesota

    "Now, they object to the price we paid, and so should you."

    Ummm. No. What I do object to, though, is a 13 year war under any circumstance. Well, two wars actually. Eventually we are ALL going to have to come to terms that we can't be fighting those naughty Muslims year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year.

    June 4, 2014 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  23. John

    6 soldiers died seaching for this deserter. Then we release 5 Taliban who will KNOW will attack our troops AGAIN for 1 Deserter. Stupid move. More soldiers will now be kipnapped and they will think we will release more of them. If we dont we will see more soldiers getting their heads cut off by these savages. Pull our soldiers out and Nuke the place.

    June 4, 2014 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  24. The Fact of the Matter

    @Jeff Brown in Jersey: "What happened to 'No man left behind'?" All bets are off when that "man" is a traitor and deserter. I suppose you're okay with that.

    June 4, 2014 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  25. 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.

    June 4, 2014 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
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