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Senators Briefed on Bergdahl Swap; GOP Criticism Continues

Tue, 10 Jun 2014 19:37:44 +0000

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee received a briefing on the Bowe Bergdahl prisoner exchange from Pentagon officials on Tuesday.

Following the briefing, Republican lawmakers continued to criticize the administration for agreeing to release five Taliban detainees without notifying Congress.

“I have every reason to believe if they want to go back to the fight, they will, and judging from their background, I think they will go back to the fight,” Sen. Jim Inhofe, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said.

“Nobody can look at this deal without being troubled that the safety and security of American citizens has been jeopardized and the safety and security of our soldiers has been jeopardized,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said.

Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Ala., said the Pentagon officials offered no information in the briefing to indicate the U.S. Army sergeant's life was in danger prior to the exchange.

And it wasn’t just Republicans expressing skepticism about the prisoner swap. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., told reporters he’s convinced it was a “bad deal” to turn over five Taliban detainees.

”My main concern is these five released prisoners. Was it a good deal or a bad deal? In my mind, it's still a bad deal. I can't explain it back home to my fellow west Virginians,” Manchin said.

Tuesday’s Senate briefing comes one day before Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will testify on the Bergdahl exchange before the House Armed Services Committee.

Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Pentagon officials continue to defend their decision to secure Bergdahl’s release despite questions about his captivity.

“It is critically important that the American people know that the chairman of the joint chiefs and the vice chairman of the joint chiefs strongly recommended this agreement knowing full well the Bergdahl had left his unit and knowing full well how bad these Taliban people were,” Levin said. “Nothing has changed the firm determination that this was the right thing to do.”

The White House reached a deal on the prisoner exchange involving Sgt. Bergdahl one day before it occurred and nailed down the exact location just one hour before the swap, the Senate's second highest ranking Democrat said Tuesday.

"They knew a day ahead of time that the transfer was going to take place. They knew an hour ahead of time where it was going to take place," Durbin told a small group of reporters in the Capitol Tuesday.

Durbin argued the short time frame gave the administration little opportunity to notify Congress.

“Are you saying that once we decided to do the prisoner transfer we had to wait 30 days to notify Congress and wait 30 days? The president couldn’t do that. It was impossible, and it could have endangered the man’s life by waiting 30 days,” he said.

Levin offered a slightly longer timeline for the exchange agreement, saying the deal came together days before it actually occurred.

House Speaker John Boehner, who said he was never briefed on a potential exchange, predicted on Tuesday that the release of the five detainees will cost U.S. lives.

“We’re going to pay for this. There is not any doubt in my mind there are going to be costs, lost lives associated with what came out of this,” the Ohio Republican said at a news conference.


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