On Tuesday’s “On the Record,” Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, offered a few of the unclassified details from a closed-door briefing the White House gave on Tuesday concerning the swap of five Taliban for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
Transcript as follows:
PERINO: Senator, could you start off with telling us a little bit of, did you learn anything today that was new that we haven’t heard already?
INHOFE: All I learned today is how well orchestrated the White House is. They had everyone saying the same thing. No one disagreeing. And so there is very little new. There is one thing that’s not classified that I will share. And I was in shock. Dana, it was against the law for them to do this without their — the 30-day notice. I think we all have covered that. We know that. But even General [Joseph] Dunford, who is the commanding general in Afghanistan, and General [Lloyd] Austin, of the Central Command, they were not advised either that they were turning these people loose. Everyone who is on record now — James Clapper, who is the intelligence director, he said he would not have turned them loose under no circumstances. They tried to turn this same group loose just a few months ago. And they all said no. Leon Panetta, he was secretary of defense at that time. He said, no, we can’t do it.
And so, to answer your question, there wasn’t anything new. And a lot of this stuff that they talked about should not be classified anyway.
PERINO: The concern that we have heard from members that are on the committee, or the members that aren’t on the committee on Capitol Hill about not being briefed beforehand. The criticism of the deal itself and also the process, is that continuing to be bipartisan? Because we have heard from both parties that they’re not happy with how the White House handled it.
INHOFE: No, I don’t think — the way this whole thing started was supposed to be this great thing in the rose room — or with Obama standing up and returning the prisoner, and it all back fired. It was all Obama then. Now, all they talked about in this briefing was, well, Secretary Hagel did this and Secretary Hagel did that. No, this is the president, clearly. And when you stop and realize — and I actually had the name here, and it’s not classified. Jaralla al-Marri, not too long ago, a few months ago, was sent to Qatar to be under the supervision, and then we went over to find him and we found out he was in London. So I don’t have any confidence.
First of all, the statement was wrong. When the president comes out and says, well, we are going to release these people but they promise they won’t kill Americans for the next year, well, that’s not very comforting. Now we find out that, in my opinion, after listening to everything, classified and unclassified, I don’t have any confidence that they are going to be under the control of Qatar. You know, as far as I’m concerned, they could be back in the fight now.
INHOFE: Yeah, go ahead.
PERINO: I want to ask you one last question about Defense Secretary Hagel, who was a Senator from Nebraska. I think you served with him for quite a while. You probably knew him fairly well. Today the White House finally said, no, it’s actually Chuck Hagel. He made the final decision about this. They were trying to put some distance between the White House and the decision made by the secretary of defense. Are you buying that? And do you think that Chuck Hagel, having served in the Senate, is now that contemptuous of the body that he wouldn’t have thought it was necessary to let you know?
INHOFE: No. Dana, absolutely, the decision that was by the White House. And everyone that was in that briefing works for the White House. They all work for the president. Including the military. He is he a commander-in-chief. And so you have them all now trying to push this thing off on Hagel. It wasn’t Hagel. It was the administration. Clearly, it was. So now they are all trying to say that it’s — you know, someone other than the president made that decision.
The decision is bad enough. But to try to push it off on someone else is worse. But I still say, Dana, that the worst part of this is the two generals in charge of the whole operation there, Dunford and Austin, were not even advised that this was going to happen.
PERINO: All right. So maybe they don’t trust them either. OK.
Senator, thank you so much.
INHOFE: Thank you.
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