White House Knew Bergdahl Swap Would Go Through a Day Before It Happened

A top Senate Democrat says there was no time for the Obama administration to notify Congress 30 days in advance of the trade.

National Journal
Elahe Izadi Michael Catalini
See more stories about...
Elahe Izadi Michael Catalini
June 10, 2014, 7:40 a.m.

One reas­on the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion may have not aler­ted Con­gress 30 days in ad­vance of the Sgt. Bowe Ber­g­dal swap: It made the de­cision right be­fore it took place.

“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,” the Sen­ate’s No. 2 Demo­crat, Dick Durbin, told a small group of re­port­ers Tues­day.

Pres­id­ent Obama has said that the swap re­quired quick ac­tion: “We had to act fast in a del­ic­ate situ­ation that re­quired no pub­li­city,” Obama said Fri­day on NBC Nightly News.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion has also ar­gued that it put Con­gress “on no­tice” back in Decem­ber 2013, via a sign­ing state­ment from Obama re­lat­ing spe­cific­ally to a re­quire­ment that the ad­min­is­tra­tion no­ti­fy Con­gress 30 days in ad­vance of re­leas­ing any pris­on­ers from Guantanamo Bay. Ad­di­tion­ally, ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials point out that they had pre­vi­ously briefed law­makers on the idea of swap­ping these five Taliban lead­ers.

Durbin says it was “im­possible” for the pres­id­ent to strike the deal and then wait 30 days, say­ing it could have “en­dangered the man’s life” by wait­ing.

“So we have a pro­vi­sion in the law about 30-day no­ti­fic­a­tion which doesn’t square with real­ity. Could he, could any­one have con­tac­ted Con­gress soon­er? Per­haps,” Durbin said. “But this no­tion of 30 days, I can’t be­lieve any­body’s ar­guing, ‘Well as soon as we knew there was a trans­fer we had to wait for Con­gress to think it over for 30 days.’ That is not in the best in­terests.”

But that ar­gu­ment doesn’t sat­is­fy every­one on Cap­it­ol Hill. A num­ber of law­makers, par­tic­u­larly Re­pub­lic­ans, emerged from a closed Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee brief­ing Tues­day still crit­ic­al of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s de­cision to make the swap without more of a heads-up to Con­gress.

Demo­crat­ic Sen. Tim Kaine of Vir­gin­ia said the 30-day no­tice is­sue is one out­stand­ing prob­lem for him. “I’m still troubled by wheth­er the ad­min­is­tra­tion met the 30-day re­quire­ment and I’m dig­ging in­to that fur­ther,” he said.

Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Chair­man Carl Lev­in said ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials presen­ted some ad­di­tion­al in­form­a­tion that was not in­cluded in last week’s all-sen­at­ors closed brief­ing. On Tues­day, ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials fo­cused more on “the leg­al reas­on” for why the 30-day no­tice was not needed, namely point­ing to Art­icle II of the Con­sti­tu­tion, which spe­cifies the pres­id­ent’s role as com­mand­er-in-chief.

Lev­in later said that of­fi­cials knew of the de­tailed loc­a­tion “a few hours” be­fore the swap and that the deal had come to­geth­er in just “a mat­ter of days.”

This story was up­dated at 12:15 with fur­ther com­ment from Sen. Lev­in.

What We're Following See More »
LEGACY PLAY
Sanders and Clinton Spar Over … President Obama
8 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

President Obama became a surprise topic of contention toward the end of the Democratic debate, as Hillary Clinton reminded viewers that Sanders had challenged the progressive bona fides of President Obama in 2011 and suggested that someone might challenge him from the left. “The kind of criticism that we’ve heard from Senator Sanders about our president I expect from Republicans, I do not expect from someone running for the Democratic nomination to succeed President Obama,” she said. “Madame Secretary, that is a low blow,” replied Sanders, before getting in another dig during his closing statement: “One of us ran against Barack Obama. I was not that candidate.”

THE 1%
Sanders’s Appeals to Minorities Still Filtered Through Wall Street Talk
9 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

It’s all about the 1% and Wall Street versus everyone else for Bernie Sanders—even when he’s talking about race relations. Like Hillary Clinton, he needs to appeal to African-American and Hispanic voters in coming states, but he insists on doing so through his lens of class warfare. When he got a question from the moderators about the plight of black America, he noted that during the great recession, African Americans “lost half their wealth,” and “instead of tax breaks for billionaires,” a Sanders presidency would deliver jobs for kids. On the very next question, he downplayed the role of race in inequality, saying, “It’s a racial issue, but it’s also a general economic issue.”

DIRECT APPEAL TO MINORITIES, WOMEN
Clinton Already Pivoting Her Messaging
9 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

It’s been said in just about every news story since New Hampshire: the primaries are headed to states where Hillary Clinton will do well among minority voters. Leaving nothing to chance, she underscored that point in her opening statement in the Milwaukee debate tonight, saying more needs to be done to help “African Americans who face discrimination in the job market” and immigrant families. She also made an explicit reference to “equal pay for women’s work.” Those boxes she’s checking are no coincidence: if she wins women, blacks and Hispanics, she wins the nomination.

THE QUESTION
How Many Jobs Would Be Lost Under Bernie Sanders’s Single-Payer System?
17 hours ago
THE ANSWER

More than 11 million, according to Manhattan Institute fellow Yevgeniy Feyman, writing in RealClearPolicy.

Source:
WEEKEND DATA DUMP
State to Release 550 More Clinton Emails on Saturday
17 hours ago
THE LATEST

Under pressure from a judge, the State Department will release about 550 of Hillary Clinton’s emails—“roughly 14 percent of the 3,700 remaining Clinton emails—on Saturday, in the middle of the Presidents Day holiday weekend.” All of the emails were supposed to have been released last month. Related: State subpoenaed the Clinton Foundation last year, which brings the total number of current Clinton investigations to four, says the Daily Caller.

Source:
×