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. carlos

    Sniffit"LOL. Riiiiiight...because of course, the best strategy for handling something your opponents have tried to turninto a scandal and blame you for it is to do something that your opponents will 100% predictably try to turn into another scandal and blame you for it? Look, we all know you guys sit and watch...'
    Obama did not consult the intelligence community at all. B.c if he did they would tell him that this guy is AWOL and the five Gitmo are not be released. He did this unilaterally thinking this would be a win for him politically give the VA scandal. Once again he fails. He did not imagine it would blow up the way it has. Pure and absolute incompetence as usual fr this Admin. It does not matter where u watch. Everyone that have served with Bergdahl has said he was a deserter. All Obama had to do was ask the Pentagon. But the king consults with no one and u defend him. U would never do the same if this were a Republican. That makes u a hypocrite. So spare us the lies. U r equally bias as u claim FOX news to be and no different than them.

    June 4, 2014 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  2. Patriot

    Guess what Thunderdolt. He is the Manchurian Candidate. Too bad you can do nothing about it. He's actually a Kenyan, who was born in Iran and was educated in Moscow. He's in charge now and will be until 2016, after he sends all of you smart guys to the concentration camps. He already has the black helicopters hovering over YOUR house. When you hear that swoosh sound, that'll be his secret army coming to kick in your door and take your AR-15. You can say, "come and get it" and they will, no problemo. But first Michelle will personnally force feed you and your family healthy foods until you vomit up your Mt. Dew and Chick filet sandwiches.

    June 4, 2014 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  3. JoeP

    This could have been done out of the spotlight. It was made a public spectacle because it was intended to win popularity points for the president. There is a lot of information coming out, and it's hard to tell exactly if the exchange was a good or bad decision. However, making it so public was just clearly moronic. There's no question about that.

    June 4, 2014 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  4. Lynda/Minnesota

    "Is that a clear example what is usually called 'projection' or what?"

    We've seen some fancy footwork from the right today. I'm calling it for what it is: FOX Trot Extraordinaire.

    Inconsistencies indeed.

    June 4, 2014 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  5. Roger Bixby

    This is what I've seen today: Wolf is the judge and everything I have heard so far is totally political.................

    June 4, 2014 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  6. Roger Bixby

    Wolf: Look in the mirror............................

    June 4, 2014 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  7. sly

    I'm more furious about this than even the fact that no one personnally let me examine President Obama's Birth Certificate!

    We should never try to free American hostages – let them rot in a foreign prison.

    Gosh, this President is so un-American for freeing that American. Please vote for Palin for President. We need a Tea Party President.

    June 4, 2014 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  8. carlos

    I guess all the soldiers that served with Bergdahl who called him a deserter and the Pentagon that never designated him a POW are all liars and Obama, Rice, the rest of the Admin are the ones telling the truth. B/c Obama, Rice and the rest of this Admin have never lied to the American people right Obama apologists?

    June 4, 2014 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  9. Tim

    "partisan feud"? Only a far left-wing propaganda outlet would try to paint this as anything but another epic failure by Obama and his band of incompetents.

    June 4, 2014 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  10. Dee

    They would have compromised the mission by leaking the information because they hate this president so much. Their is no respect for him from the first day he was sworn in as President, Mitch McConnell said it all.

    This guy was 23 years old, we don't know his mental stage in a war we need to wait until all the facts are out and guys from his platoon that are all over the media are pushed by the republican backers to speak out and they know they should wait until he is investigated.

    Bottom line we are suppose to bring him home if he didn't he would face the same critics. One thing about the President he is no one's fool and he is a smart man, a Constitutional Lawyer and would not disgrace the office of the President.

    No President has been scrutinized like him called liar, King and everything else by members of congress and some fringed Americans. He even brought us back from a near depression but he doesn't get credit how soon do we forget.

    June 4, 2014 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  11. Dee

    everyone needs to step back and wait for all the details I guarantee if Bergdahl was our son we would want the President to do the same for us and especially if it applied to members of Congresses' children they would be singing a different tune.

    The President is damn if he don't and damn if he does I say vote them out we owe his parents dignity and respect.

    June 4, 2014 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  12. sandy

    Even Feinstein said O broke the law (he voted for) by trading terrorists for a soldier that walked away from his platoon. Hello, can we please do away with Obama and his sense of being King?

    June 4, 2014 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  13. MaryM

    McChrystal on Bergdahl: ‘We don’t leave Americans behind. That’s unequivocal’

    June 4, 2014 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  14. don in albuquerque

    I didn't realize "no one left behind" was followed by "but only if".

    June 4, 2014 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  15. carlos

    Lets get something straight here Dianne Feinstein said she is disappointed that Obama did NOT follow the law. So if the head of the Senate Intelligence Comm., a Democrat, stated that Obama broke the law how can anyone here defend Obama? The intelligence community under Leon Penneta was against releasing these prisoners. Obama was trying to score political points in view of the VA scandal and it backfired. Obama and his constant incompetence make Bush looks like a freak genius. Not hard to do under this Admin.

    June 4, 2014 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  16. CryBabies

    Anybody see Rachel Maddows silly attempt, last night, to equate the rescue of Jessica Lynch with the release of Sgt Bergdahl? I love the view of the world from the left.... its so Mother Goosey.

    June 4, 2014 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  17. hannah

    I think the Republican right wingers are finding difficulty in making anything stick when it comes to blaming Obama. The ACA is working, people now have health care where they didn't before, the Begazzi thing is falling apart.....So they have to have something. Oh, yeah and the VA. But the main problem with the VA is that there are too many vets now with all the Bush wars and the VA can't keep up with them all.

    June 4, 2014 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  18. the troof

    saying you want to get him back, and then objecting to the price paid behind your back is not being inconsistent. Saying you want him back at any cost, then that would be the case.

    June 4, 2014 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  19. Dee

    The VA scandal happen also in Arizona so where was McCain these are his constituents he never said anything until the scandal was revealed.

    June 4, 2014 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  20. Dee

    To Retired

    Thanks for your service to our country you put everything in perspective comments should be closed after that.

    June 4, 2014 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  21. Terry Gonzales

    You should try and rescue an American regardless who it is. The dumb thing the pres did was to trade the 5 top terrorist leaders for him. If Cuba kidnapped an American and wanted Florida in exchange, would that be right? The deal was so extremely lopsided, that I suspect an unpublished deal/goal was to make "peace" with the Taliban as we plan to leave. Either way the pres and his yes men and women made a mistake.

    June 4, 2014 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  22. rs


    Oh lets not forget that former CIA Leon Panetta and James Clapper are on the record stating that these 5 Gitmo detainees are the worse and should never be returned. Oh but that's just another FOX whack job Obama apologists? Tell me when u r not a whack job for your blind allegiance to Obama even when he is wrong?
    VA scandal no longer a problem now right?
    It must be a numbers thing- because you're not mentioning the MORE THAN 500 Taliban guys Bush released. As the war ends this year AND we would have had to cut these guys loose anyway, do you think it was worth the swap?

    June 4, 2014 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  23. anothermuse

    In this case the right isn't that inconsistent. They made statements that we should be working to get the man home. They did not say at all costs. McCain was the closest, however he said that while he was open to a prisoner exchange, he feels this price was too high. Nothing inconsistent with that. Good sound bytes I guess. Not much substance.

    The White House however chose to make this exchange public which would indicate that they didn't realize what a hornets nest it would be. If Feinstein is upset about it, I imagine a lot of more moderate Dems are even more ticked off.

    Just looks like it was handled poorly and there was no reason to handle in the public eye.

    June 4, 2014 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  24. christina williams

    CNN writes " Inconsistencies from both sides in Bergdahl release" that is the way CNN informs , and that is the reason why I don't watch it!

    June 4, 2014 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  25. Jeff

    It's obvious that this guy deserted. Now all you can do is decide if releasing 5 of the most dangerous Gitmo detainees to secure his release was worthwhile. IMHO, no it wasn't and it is demotivating for the soldier that do their jobs.

    June 4, 2014 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
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