Senators complaining that they were left out of the loop on details of the prisoner swap that brought U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl back from five years in captivity weren’t interested in explanations offered at a closed-door briefing Wednesday night. Many of them left early.
According to a report by the Huffington Post, many of President Obama’s most outspoken critics did not stay to hear everything administration officials had to say on the trade. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, did not attend at all.
Top-ranking Democrats also left early; Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein, D-California, also admitted she did not stay through the end of the briefing. In an interview with Bloomberg News set to air this weekend, Feinstein said that she has not yet been convinced that there was ”credible threat” on Bergdahl’s life that justified keeping her and other lawmakers in the dark.
Many Senators are angry that the administration did not follow a rule that requires they be notified 30 days before any detainees are transferred out of Guantanamo Bay. Five Taliban fighters who had been held for more than a decade at Guantanamo were released to Qatar in exchange for Bergdahl.
The spotty attendance could explain why Sen. John McCain disputed an AP report that the briefing revealed a threat to kill Bergdahl if news of the prisoner swap leaked as the reason why Obama did not tell Congress. Intelligence about the threat came from the Qataris. “I never heard that,” McCainsaid in response to the report. The Huffington Post reported that McCain stormed out of the Wednesday briefing after yelling at an official. After he left, McCain told reporters he had learned nothing.
Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Georgia, was so convinced he would hear nothing new that he appeared on Fox News while the briefing was still happening. “In fact, the briefing is still going on, but I don’t see how anybody can walk out of there with any kind of comfortable feeling that the administration from a notification standpoint, and I emphasize that, did what they should have done or what they had the opportunity to do,” he said.
Obama and his aides have said that concerns about Bergdahl’s health and safety made it impossible to wait to make the swap. They have also said that after years of off and on negotiations with the Taliban, the deal would not have been a surprise to Congressional leaders.