Lawmakers angry over the Obama administration’s controversial prisoner swap with the Taliban for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will question Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Capitol Hill on Wednesday in the administration’s first public testimony on the kidnapped soldier’s return.
Hagel is scheduled to appear before the House Armed Services Committee, which is investigating the exchange of five high-level Guantanamo Bay detainees for the end of Bergdahl’s five-year captivity on May 31.
Republicans have blasted President Obama for not informing Congress of the trade in advance, and have also accused the administration of breaking a law that requires a 30-day notification of the release of any Guantanamo prisoner. Critics have also said Bergdahl was a deserter and claim the U.S. lost soldiers in an attempt to free him.
A Pentagon spokesman said Hagel will explain why the decision was “the right one.” The spokesman said the administration had a “very small, fleeting opportunity” to secure Bergdahl’s release and took the chance, he said.
Democratic Senator Dick Durbin said Tuesday the exchange was only finalized a day before the swap. He added that American officials didn’t learn of the pickup location for Bergdahl until an hour ahead of time, which is why the White House did not inform Congress of the exchange 30 days in advance.
“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.”
A recent Washington Post/ABC poll shows a majority of Americans, or 51 percent, disapproved of the trade, with just 39 percent in favor.
Obama is “not going to get away with this one,” Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California said Monday after a closed-doors hearing of the House.