The news that Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is to be tried for desertion casts the 2014 prisoner swap in a new light. President Barack Obama traded five senior Taliban leaders, who had been imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay, for Bergdahl–and did so without giving Congress 30 days’ advance notice. In doing so, the Obama administration broke the law, according to a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. That violation was not just a crime, but also, in context, a high crime.
The term “high crimes and misdemeanors” is famously vague. And there is no chance of impeaching a lame-duck president with less than two years to go in office.
Yet if we accept that “high crimes” ought to cover violations that impact national security, the Bergdahl swap certainly qualifies. To trade five major enemy leaders for an alleged (known?) deserter who placed U.S. troops at risk is to undermine an ongoing war effort and to encourage future terror attacks or even kidnappings.
Earlier this year, CNN reported that the U.S. military believes at least one of the Taliban leaders released to Qatar has tried to rejoin the war effort by re-establishing contact with Taliban forces in Afghanistan. Fox News now reports the number as three out of five.
The Obama administration, however, has vouched repeatedly for the deal and for Bergdahl himself, even honoring his parents with a spectacle in the Rose Garden. UN Ambassador Susan Rice claimed last year that Bergdahl had served “with honor and distinction.” Presumably, Obama would have lied to Congress even if he had obeyed the law.
The hard truth is that President Barack Obama broke the law, egregiously. The sad truth is he will not be punished.