The Obama administration cemented the trade to release Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl only a day before his June 1 release, a top Senate Democrat told reporters Tuesday.
“They knew a day ahead of time that the transfer was going to take place,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D—Ill.). “They knew an hour ahead of time where it was going to take place.”
Durbin, the Democratic whip, put forward the last-minute nature of the deal as a reason why the White House did not inform Congress of the prisoner exchange 30 days beforehand, as some critics have said President Obama should have. The National Defense Authorization Act calls for the president to give 30 days notice when prisoners are released from Guantanamo Bay. Bergdahl’s release was secured as part of an exchange with five Taliban prisoners, who were released into Qatari custody.
“Are we saying that once we decided to do the prisoner transfer we had to wait 30 days to notify Congress?” Durbin said. “The President couldn’t do that. It was impossible. It could have endangered the man’s life if we waited 30 days. So we have a provision in the law about 30-day notification which doesn’t square with reality. Could anyone have contacted Congress sooner? Perhaps.”
Congressional lawmakers have expressed disappointment and even anger at not being notified of the prisoner swap ahead of time. Only Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was notified before the swap.
“It comes with some surprise and dismay that the transfers went ahead with no consultation, totally not following the law,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee told reporters a week ago. On Tuesday, Feinstein struck a different tone.
“I think we need to put an end to all of this now,” she said. “I think enough is enough. I think the Senate has had a hearing and the House has had a hearing,” she said.
“I think everybody has heard what they need to hear.”