Members of Congress who were told by White House officials Monday in classified briefings that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is responsible for and had the authority to make the final approval over Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s exchange for the ‘Taliban 5.’
House Armed Services Chair Buck Mckeon (R-CA) told ABC, “They indicated [it was] Secretary Hagel [who made the final call].” He continued, “It was the president of the United States that came out with the Bergdahls and took all the credit and now that there’s been a little pushback he’s moving away from it and it’s Secretary Hagel?”
Last week, Hagel told the BBC that the decision to deal with the Taliban Islamist terrorist group was unanimous within the ranks of top White House cabinet officials. “It was the Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Director of National Intelligence, Attorney General,” he said.
Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) of the House Intelligence committee revealed startling information about who was ‘in the know’ about the Bergdahl exchange. “They made it clear that there were 80 to 90 people who knew ahead of time about the Bergdahl release. There was a sense of anger that members of Congress didn’t know about this. Obviously, if there is secure information — members of Congress knew about the capture of Osama bin Laden — and yet 80 to 90 staff in the White House knew about this,” she said.
Bachmann pointed out the ever-changing narrative of the Obama White House over the Bergdahl exchange debacle. “There’s a lot of problems with this administration’s story. It keeps changing, and it doesn’t add up,” she said.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) espoused the party line. “I am so grateful to this administration for following through on what we all believed that we leave no soldier behind,” she said. “I am completely mystified and quite frankly disgusted that… there has been a demonization of this soldier. Every American deserves to be considered innocent until proven guilty.”
Not all Democrats were thrilled with the administration’s usurpation of power, however. Rep. Gene Green (D-TX) said, “Congress does not like to be left out of the loop.”
Hagel is set to appear in front of the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday. He is expected to try and defend the administration’s decision to release five senior Taliban commanders in exchange for alleged Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl.