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. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    "As the 'gang' knows, I am self proclaimed libertarian and therefore smarter than everyone else on here.
    Good one Ol' Yeller!
    Oh I do so miss you guys!

    June 4, 2014 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  2. Tom l

    2 simple questions that just require simple answers and I certainly don't think I'm smarter than anyone, I'm just not the hardcore partisans that you are (even though you think I am) because I hold positions on both sides and don't blindly follow one side like you do. I can criticize bush and Obama; it's quite easy.

    So as soon as you can tell. Me why Hillary told the father of the fallen seal several days after the attack that we were goin to arrest the maker of the video and why Obama talked about the video 2 weeks later at the UN then we'll be good. Until then, I will continue to ask very reasonable questions that if you took your blinders off you would realize are quite troubling.

    June 4, 2014 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  3. CB

    Obama willfully and knowingly broke the law yet CNN wants people to believe he had support from Republicans.

    Because McCain said he was open to the idea doesn't mean he endorsed trading 5 high profile terrorists for a guy who wanted to renounce his affiliation with America.

    Don't get distracted people. The one thing you need to remember is that yet again, Obama believes that laws don't apply to him.

    Educate yourself on "Signing Statements". The signing statement that was attached to this particular law is on line
    for anyone to read. Agree with them, or not, this is a practice that is not new to this President, in fact it was under
    the Reagan administration that their usage increased dramatically. To assert that the President broke the law by using a tool that has been used by adminsitrations for decades is just slightly hypocritical.

    June 4, 2014 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  4. Glenn

    Republican Senators McCain, Ayotte, Inhofe were all for it, before they were against it! What kind of deal did George Bush get when he released 500 Taliban prisoners at GITMO? (None!)

    June 4, 2014 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  5. Badboy

    Republicans and Democrats constantly change views on issues when the other side makes the issue happen. We are tired of this and the war. Bring our troops home and stop trying to police the world. Never heard a word about freeing a nations people in Africa or the Sudan and these are places where attrocities happen daily but unreported.

    June 4, 2014 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  6. EdFromFallsChurch

    Clearly, a misleading story on CNN's web site, but what else is new? There really isn't any inconsistencies in what Sens. McCain or Ayotte said. They were open to a deal if they were notified of the conditions beforehand which is what the law states.

    The real problem here, and it would be nice if CNN could actually do some analysis above the college freshman level, is that the Obama administration has become much too isolated from not only Congress but from society at large. Living inside their bubble, the President and his aides convinced themselves that this would be a big win and hopefully (if I can be a bit cynical here) deflect critics away from the VA scandal by **proving** that the President was taking care of the troops.

    But the exact opposite happened.

    The President would have known this if he had sent staff members over to the Hill and discussed with committee members beforehand.

    Instead, he sends Susan "Dang If I Know" Rice to bumble her way through the Sunday morning talk shows, only making matters worse.

    Sheeeesh. What a mess his second term in becoming.

    June 4, 2014 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  7. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Ol' Yeller says:
    June 4, 2014 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm
    I for one think one of our soldiers is worth any ten of their best soldiers… but then again, I have ALWAYS supported our troops and not just when it was just politically beneficial for me to do so.
    It is pretty easy to spot the partisan hacks in times like this….
    Actually, it is pretty easy to spot the partisan hacks ALL the time on here. Their posts usually begin, “I will never again vote for odumbo, despite being a lifelong registered dumocrat, I ill not ever vote for one again because obumbler has ruined my country… blah, balh, blah….
    “As the ‘gang’ knows, I am self proclaimed libertarian and therefore smarter than everyone else on here. Please answer all the follwoing questions in 6000 words or more and then I will ask 13 more redundant and senseless questions and play the victim some more….”

    Brilliant!!! 😍😍😍😍

    June 4, 2014 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  8. Pander Bear

    Wait, you mean Republicans are being hypocritical about something Obama did? Buh buh buh but how can that be?

    June 4, 2014 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  9. jbigdaddy

    Regardless of your political leaning, this article represents poor journalism, clearly attempting to sway the reader away from the real issue. I am disappointed that Americans aren't more demanding of our media.

    June 4, 2014 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  10. corpsman

    "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. "

    How many US Presidents pull the trigger themselves? Name one.

    June 4, 2014 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  11. mommeyh

    Unbelievable – Although not a supporter of George Bush, I would have respected and understood any efforts he made to return any of our captured military home, as every President promises never to leave any soldier behind. As evident by the convenient way that conservative republicans who originally asked the President to step up his efforts to get him released, are now condemning him for doing so. Had he not made the effort, or made the effort and failed, republican conservatives would have still exploited this into a situation where they can bring down the Administration. I believe it has very little to do with what was the right thing to do, and everything to do with finding any opportunity to try to discredit this Administration and hopefully influence the upcoming election. Also, if it wasn't so sad, it would be hilarious to even think about advising this Congress on any sensitive negotiations. After all, they are the worst Congress, based on their approval ratings, ever and as far as I know, no one has any faith in their ability to accomplish a thing. As far as the controversy over this particular soldier, the right thing is still to bring him home and let the military investigate and handle any consequences he may or may not have to face. They are certainly better qualified to do this than our representatives and many of the hate mongers on this website.

    June 4, 2014 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  12. Willy

    Once again a total disregard for the rule of ,congress and the truth. Were used to Susan (the whole truth) Rice being the one trotted out when LIES net to be told served with honor indead.

    June 4, 2014 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  13. Joi Gibson

    The only thing Congress can pass is gas. The man would probably still be there in 2016 trying to get a consensus from Congress. Bring him home, first and foremost, and then if he did indeed desert, well, then, he must face the consequences. Although, it is hard not to empathize with a young man, in war, who suddenly finds that war intolerable. I feel for the guy. I can also understand why his fellow soldiers are very upset. This is all very complicated and heart wrenching. As far as those five people who were released from Guantanamo, in a year's time if they get back on the battlefield, we have these little things called drones.

    June 4, 2014 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  14. Lynda/Minnesota

    Form what I have heard from his comrades on cable news, Bergdahl, by their accounts is a deserter. He should be tried,
    convicted and suffer the penalty under military law period!

    Why wait for a trial when one can go on the intertubes and convict him without benefit of a trial? Thing is, eventually all this "due process in the public forum" will come back to haunt us as a nation ( and not just politically ).

    GOPerville willfully opened Pandora's box and has sat back and (one might say) gleefully reaped the harvest.

    June 4, 2014 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  15. King

    I would have done the swap, provided we implant tracking chips to their vertebrae without their knowing. Then hand them back and follow the trail.

    June 4, 2014 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  16. Anonymous

    Some people, like McCain, are slightly moderating their former opposition because they are insiders who Obama let in on what was really traded for the release of five GItmo detainees. Anyone willing to ignore the BS the media is selling must come to the same conclusion that I did - which is that whatever Obama traded for the release of five Gitmo detainees, it _HAD_ to be more than we are being told - more than just the release of one POW who the military considers a deserter anyway..

    June 4, 2014 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  17. LilRdVet2

    Dear Senator McCain,

    How many POWs were left behind after Bergdahl's swap? How many were left behind (and are either still there or were killed) after YOUR swap? We'll wait...take your time...

    Please sit down and be quiet...

    June 4, 2014 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  18. Marcus (from...?)

    '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.'

    Aside your low-life-level idea of nuking the place...
    The USA never signed any deal with any country or political group/faction of any country in which the USA waived to the other part the rights to judge (and impose sanction in case of the veredict be 'guilty') any US citizen that was accused formally or not) of failing to do his/her legal obligations (as in desertion).
    Bergdahl is a deserter? Then let the court martial decide it.
    Not the Taleban, not me and not you.

    June 4, 2014 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  19. John

    Obama won't get any approval from Congress for anything. I wouldn't try to work with a Congress who can't get out of their own way and are only self-serving and wouldn't blame the president for feeling the same way. Interesting to note that Republicans only feel that the Constitution only applies to them and people who don't agree with them can be guilty until proved innocent. Scandal! Controversy!, Conspiracy! Liberal media! Cover-ups! The Republicans are one BIG soap opera.

    June 4, 2014 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  20. Cam Brady

    Bringing home our missing soldiers is our American back-bone!

    June 4, 2014 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  21. paul reynolds

    Fact – President Obama used a SIGNING STATEMENT which allowed Him to legally bypass the 30 day Congressional requirement.
    Thanks to Bush/Cheney tirelessly expanding Presidential Powers and Dubya using 558 Signing Statements – Obama leveraged that!!

    June 4, 2014 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  22. paul reynolds

    Reality Check:
    * These were local Afghan TALIBAN, Not Al Quaeda Terrorists!
    * RepubliCons Invaded THEIR Land, Remember!????
    * In 12 Years, NO Charges or Crimes were ever proven
    * Prisoners were already scheduled to be fully released in 6 months per International Law, but Now our President has put them under surveillance for a Year!!

    June 4, 2014 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  23. paul reynolds

    We all know the Fakes News-propaganda generated "Outrage" if Our President LEFT Bergdahl in Afghan!
    * President ABANDONS Ranger, betrays Americans and Military!
    * President Obama turns his back on Military POW despite Trade deal for Prisoners already scheduled to be released at the end of 2014 by International Laws!
    * America never leaves Troops behind, WHAT was Our President Thinking.!??
    So fake "Fair" and "Balanced

    June 4, 2014 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  24. BIll

    Now they know we will deal with terrorist they kidnap more.

    June 4, 2014 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  25. sly

    President Obama – you are a hero! Thank you for bringing how our POW's.

    Screw the Republicans in Congress – they'll only shut down America. Bypass them. It's OUR nation now!

    Bring home every POW from the Bush Oil Genocides.

    June 4, 2014 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
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